Big Sister Rules, OK

Young girls eating fruit popsicles outdoors
Young girls eating fruit popsicles outdoors

Ava seems to get more grown up with each passing day.

She has been increasingly lording it over Ruby since starting school. That was really the defining moment in terms of Big Sister / Little Sister. Until that point they had always done everything the same, and had been treated exactly the same too.

With school under her belt, Ava obviously feels quite the older sibling these days, and because Ruby doesn't seem to mind (or that might be 'notice') that, I let Ava enjoy her fleeting moments of superiority. In fact, sometimes I enjoy them too.

You see, in her relatively new role of Very Clearly Defined Big Sister, Ava has taken it upon herself to help me parent Ru. Not always the way I would do it, but still.

I started noticing a couple of months ago that whenever Ruby was having some completely pointless tantrum (probably because I'd said something like "It's not Wednesday tomorrow, it's Tuesday"), and she was doing that thing of forcing herself to cry (just because making a loud noise was the only way she could express her dismay that she was wrong about what day it was), Ava would come up with a distraction.

Her favoured method, still, is pretending she is made of rubber. Over the racket, Ava starts throwing herself around, pretending to bang into furniture, saying "BOIIIING!" and then "OUCH!".

There is usually nothing I can say to Ruby in those moments (just hug for a long time), but this, to Ru, is hysterical. She can manage but one or two more wails before she's laughing from her belly, watching her big sister clown around, just for her. The Tantrum Curse is lifted. Life goes on as normal. It's BRILLIANT.

More recently, Ava tried a more traditional tactic.

We had decided to head off to the beach for the day to enjoy the glorious weather – which did require some co-operation from both children if we were going to get there in time to be able to stay for a while, rather than just turn round and come home again.

But Ruby didn't want to wear leggings. Or trousers. Or a dress. She told me what she wanted to wear was a small square thing with a flower on it, and I did not have the slightest clue what she was talking about.

So I helped Ava choose clothes, while Ruby looked for the mystery garment – and returned empty handed.

"Okay," I said, "let's go back to plan A and wear some leggings and a top then?"

Ruby sat there, in her pants, with folded arms and a fat bottom lip.

"Oh dear..." Ava said. "Well, you won't be able to come to the beach if you don't get dressed, Ruby."

Ruby huffed.

"You'll have to stay here, with Daddy..." Ava continued, casually.

Daddy wasn't within earshot, so I let it slide.

"You'll miss out on the sand and the paddling."


Ruby lifted her crossed arms and pushed them down again to her chest, to make it obvious just how forcibly she was huffing.


"And you won't get an ice-creeeeeam..." Ava said in a sing song voice. "But, of course, you could put these on..."

Ruby grabbed the leggings from Ava and started pulling them on. I hadn't needed to say a word.

The best effort all, though, was later on.

We were sitting outside a beachside cafe waiting for lunch, which was taking a bit longer than I'd hoped. Ruby was starving, but was confusing being very hungry for a seemingly desperate need to climb over a fence and fall face first into a mud flat.

I asked her to stop climbing on the fence – and because there were no fish and chips on the table to appease the Hunger Monster growling in her tummy, Ruby started growling instead.

Ava was straight in there.

"RUBY!" she said loudly enough for her sister to hear over her wails. "Do you want to play a game?"

She'd got Ruby's attention, but the noise hadn't stopped.

"The winner of the game gets THIS PRIZE!" Ava said, holding up a small grey stone which was exactly the same as the other 20 million small grey stones on the ground.

"The game is called 'being quiet'..." Ava continued. Ruby had quietened a bit. "But to win, you have to not shout or make a noise..."

Ruby sniffed.

"...Or CRY."

Ruby became completely calm and still. Ava held her gaze, with a very serious face, for about 10 seconds. Then she said: "Ruby, you WIN!" and she gave Ruby the small grey stone.

Ruby beamed. The curse was lifted. The food arrived. We all lived to fight another day.