I just finished spending twelve days with my older sister Pam. She flew in from Ohio to watch my children while my husband and I traveled to Denver for a wedding. Although I enjoyed my time away, being able to relax, not wake up at the crack of dawn or worry about what food or mysterious schmutz was collecting on my clothes, I really wanted to be at home with my sister. She is truly my best friend on the planet and I feel totally relaxed when she’s around.
It occurred to me that most of my wonderful childhood memories are about her. Of course, I remember my mom nurturing and cleaning and nurturing some more. I remember my dad working, building things and being silly, but my sister was always my rock. I knew I was safe when she was around. If someone teased me (like Jamie, who, after teasing me, morphed into my kindergarten “boyfriend”) she would protect me. If we got in trouble she would always share the blame rather than pointing the finger at me (I was usually the instigator). She always made sure I was safe and happy.
We would spend hours playing everything from dress up to Donnie and Marie roller girls. “Monkees’ Wives” was our absolute favorite game. Not furry monkeys, but the 1960′s pop sensation, The Monkees. She was Davie’s wife (may he rest) and I, always loving the “real musicians” was Mrs. Mike Nesmith.
Although we were entertained by others, the shows we wrote, choreographed and starred in were like no other. The audience would usually consist of family members or neighborhood friends, the content usually performed to the soundtracks of Grease, Xanadu or Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (the movie with the Bee Gees – not a proud moment, but it was awesome when I was eight).
Pam has always been a caretaker. She was born with the gift of understanding children. She’s like the Pied Piper. Kids flock to her, and because there is a mutual respect, they listen to her. She has been a preschool teacher for decades and as a mother of three (16, 14 and 8 years old). She is doing an amazing job raising her teenagers, which is a feat in my book. Whenever I need parenting advice, she’s my consulting guru. Here are some parenting tips she has shared with me:
- Never be afraid to put yourself in time out. When your children are pushing every button, take a mommy time out. Go to “your office.” Mine is the bathroom. Hers is the closet in her room. Take some breaths and come back our ready to talk.
- Your children should always think you’re just a little bit nuts. Don’t bust out the crazy mommy voice until you really need the big guns. When the crazy comes out, give them a warning: “Uh oh, I’m getting ready to use the crazy mommy voice…”. Works like a charm.
- When you’re beat tired, you haven’t been to the grocery store and there’s no way you’re going to go, it’s “silly dinner night”! This can consist of anything, as long as a green vegetable is involved. For instance: broccoli, popcorn and cheese or cereal, cucumber and french fries. The weirder the better.
- When your children ask “why” over and over again, give them an answer like, “Because we’re French” or, “ Because Abraham Lincoln did”. It usually gives them something to think about, and they stop asking.
I think what Pam has been trying to teach me is this: don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s really easy to do when you start comparing yourself to other parents or to your own parents. Every child is different and there’s no magic formula. Parenting can be scary. Sometimes you have to be willing to drop back and punt.
I recently heard about a study that proved having a sister makes people happier and more optimistic. Tony Cassidy from the University of Ulster carried out the study, which demonstrated that having a sister helped to promote good mental health. The researchers believe growing up with at least one sister makes people more able to cope with their problems. According to the study, sisters tie loved ones closer together and encourage them to communicate their emotions more effectively.
This makes perfect sense to me. My sister is always the first person I call when I need advice, have to vent, or have something hilarious to share. Am I happy and more optimistic because I have a sister? I would venture to say yes. I can only hope my son feels the same way when he gets older. Maybe my daughter will give him the same advice my sister gives me: laugh often, drop back and punt when you need to, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Why? Because we’re French!
-posted by Miss Steph, who loves her sister dearly, but doesn’t have a French bone in her body.