At the grand age of two-and-three-quarters, Ava is taking her role as a big sister very seriously. Perhaps she always has done actually.
More than a year ago, when Ruby was only just chewing proper food, Ava sidled up to a friend who was handing out rice cakes to her children. When she was asked if she'd like to help herself to one from the bag, she splayed her little hand as wide as possible, grabbed four and ran off to share the booty with Ruby.
Anyway, just recently we had an incident with a bee. Or rather, we had two incidents with two bees. On a long drive back from Cornwall, we'd stopped for a picnic. As Ava happily munched her sandwich, a little way from us, she was (I thought) playing with the grass. What she was actually doing – despite having been told many times never to touch them – was trying to catch a clover-hopping bumblebee.
Once she managed it, we certainly knew about it. Lordy, the noise! I'm not really surprised she didn't believe what I had said about bumblebees: they look far too cute to inflict such pain. Well, she learned, of course. Antihistamine and hugs administered, drama mostly over, we set off for the rest of the slightly snuffly journey home.
Less than a week later, as I was filling Ava's bucket in the back garden, Ruby was kneeling by the paddling pool dipping her hands into the water. I couldn't see, from where I was, that she was actually attempting to rescue a drowning bumble bee. She succeeded, and I imagine the bee was most grateful – until Ruby tried giving it a little squeeze.
The whole drama was replayed – the high-pitched screaming, the removal of the sting, the antihistamine, the cuddles, the snuffles. Meanwhile, as it all quietened down in the kitchen, we realised Ava was out in the garden again.
"Where that BEE?!"
"I don 't know darling – it's probably hiding because it doesn't feel very well after stinging Ruby. You see, when bees sting they..." I was going to explain again that bees don't really mean to sting, they just do it when they are scared, and once it's done the bee dies.
But Ava wasn't listening, she was marching off towards the house looking immensely cross.
"I'm going get my DRUMSTICK."
Her daddy asked why, and waited until she came back with it.
"I'm going WHACK that NAUGHTY bee!"
I really think she meant 'whack' in the mafia sense – and as she continued to hunt for the poor creature, which was nowhere to be found, Ava wildly waved her drumstick (just in case the bee could see her from its hiding place) and said: "Don't you STING my Ruby!"
While I certainly will not encourage any whacking of bees (I love bees, bees rule the world) – or indeed any other living thing – I was quietly impressed with Ava's gallant behaviour. She knew from recent experience that bees could hurt and she didn't really understand that particular bee could no longer sting her – but she still piled in. Clearly there was no way she was going to let anything get away with hurting her little sister.
I wonder if Ava will be the same a few years from now. If so, lord help any school bullies who have a pop at Ru. I think I'll check her rucksack for drumsticks on a daily basis.