She's also really good at teaching her little sister about the heroes of Pixar. Photo courtesy of Samantha Darby

Of All The Things My 5-Year-Old Is Teaching My 1-Year-Old, These Are My Favorites

Literature has made sisterhood reverent. There are the March sisters, the Bennet sisters, Beezus and Ramona — all of them weaving tales of love and adoration and also hysteria and I-might-actually-kill-you feelings. Sisterhood is beautifully encompassed in stories, and I'm finding that the four-year age gap between my own little women makes the bond even more pronounced. Look, I imagine having two small toddler daughters holding hands and both trying to eat play-dough at the same time is darling, but the fact that I have my 5-year-old, Alice, around to keep my 1-year-old, Lucy, from diving headfirst into the litter box is pure gold. Four years may sound like a toss-up — will they ignore each other or be best friends? — but for us, it's been magic watching all of the things Alice teaches Lucy.

I can only do so much as a working mom of two, and having 1-year-old Lucy is nothing like having 1-year-old Alice. One-year-old Alice got most of Mommy's attention and spent only a few hours with the crew of Sesame Street. But Lucy? She needs Alice so Mommy can have a hot cup of coffee, or answer emails, or to give all of us a break. My own siblings are my best friends, and I'm forever grateful my parents gave all of us to each other. Knowing that my girls are making those same bonds is just the cherry on top. Alice basically being Lucy's guide through life is the whole damn sundae — here are some of the things she's taught her little sister...



Grace can mean a lot of things — charm, finesse, good manners — and Alice is teaching Lucy all of that, plus some. When Lucy wails on Alice with the ferocity of a hundred 1-year-olds pissed off about not having their own Amazon tablet, Alice is sweet, and gentle, and calmly reminds her that she's the big sister and she gets sh*t babies don't. It's grace in action, and it's lovely.



To be honest, Alice also teaches me a lot about patience, but when it comes to her little sister, she's got the lesson down pat. She *hardly ever* loses her mind when Lucy dismantles an entire Barbie Dreamhouse, and her patience while waiting for Lucy to give back a thieved LEGO is worth a Nobel Peace Prize. And when all else fails, Alice has taught Lucy the ultimate act of patience — wait for Mom to fix this nonsense.



When you can't remember your PIN and the cashier just keeps swiping. Photo courtesy of Samantha Darby

Now that Lucy is a year old and less of an adorable, drooling blob in the crook of my arm, she and Alice can play together. And I mean really play. Sure, sometimes Lucy goes rogue as the grocery store customer and just knocks all of the wooden Melissa & Doug dry goods onto the floor in a fit of rage when Alice dares to take her pretend money, but all things considered, the two are often in a world all their own. Lucy is learning how to play pretend, how to read books, how to push things down just to see what it will do from Alice. And while it's a mess, my god do I love to watch them play. (It also buys me several extra seconds of bathroom time, which I am also grateful for.)


It's OK

Hell hath no fury like a 1-year-old intent on having something. In a recent Instagram story, I shared a moment that happens like 10 times a day. Alice was reading to Lucy and Lucy wanted the book, so she tried to grab it. Alice pulled it back and when she did, Lucy screamed, hit the book, and then hit Alice. You could hear my voice in the background issue a stern "Lucy." with the period and all, and it immediately made Lucy say "aww" before reaching over and laying her head on Alice's leg and kissing her. Alice responded in the most forgiving way by rubbing her little sister's back and laughing. "It's OK," she said. And it is. It's OK.


High-Pitched Squealing

Look, when you have more than one boy, everyone floods you with comments about how exhausted you must be. Don't you know that boys come shooting out of the womb with Nerf guns and dirty feet and a kazoo caked with mud that still works? Let me tell you something — two little girls together can shatter glass in 3.6 seconds with all of their squealing. So. Much. Squealing. Nobody tells you this about little girls, and nobody tells you that your oldest daughter will scream and scream until the baby catches on and soon enough, you're hiding in your own house because you're sure a wild pack of dogs is going to tear down the walls trying to find the sound. Sugar, spice, and high-pitched frequencies that break the sound barrier: that's what little girls are made of.


Go For It

Alice has been in swim classes for six months now. She started out as a little girl terrified to get water anywhere near her actual face, and is now jumping from the side of the pool, swimming underwater to retrieve brightly colored hoops. This courage and determination seemed to come out of nowhere, and at her most recent class, Lucy watched from the glass as Alice's teacher threw her into the pool cannonball-style. "Wheeeeee!" Lucy shrieked, clapping her hands with glee. Alice popped up out of the water, wiping her face with her hands and grinned. I could see all of it played out between the two of them — courage and determination and a quick lesson in just going for it, already.



Alice is a child that finds joy in everything. It's not something unheard of in a 5-year-old, but I will never not be proud to hear her exclaim, "Oh Mommy! Look at that beautiful blue sky!" when we step out of the house. "That food smells delicious," she'll say as we walk past a restaurant. "Look how cute that baby is!" she'll shout as we see another infant at the neighborhood pool. Her joy is infectious, and Lucy has caught on quickly, following Alice's eye-line to point her own chubby 1-year-old finger at a bouquet of deflated balloons on the sidewalk. "Look! Someone had a party," Alice shouts, seeing only the bright part of a sack of crumpled mylar wilting in the Georgia heat. Lucy claps her hands with glee. A party, indeed.