No, no, I'm not. But the two children have been playing together - actually, honest-to-dog playing together - quietly, even - for quite a while now. They're saying quite disgusting things, if I bother to listen, about things their imaginary moms do (not me, obviously not me), but I don't care. "My mum messes around her face" was one of the nicer ones that Mabel just came up with.
But I think it's been a while since they've done this. There's been hilarious running-around-the-house-someone's-going-to-put-an-eye-out playing, but not much sitting down with toys together playing lately.
I know now that I've said it - no matter how quietly - it will all fall apart, but it's been nice. Ironic, even, since I came here to tell you about how rotten Mabel has been to her brother lately, and maybe write my way into some sort of explanation of it for myself.
For a while now Mabel's been telling poor Dash that she hates him. Then she rubs it in: "I love Mummy, and I like Daddy, and I hate you, Dash. You're poopy and I hate you forever." Stuff like that. Which is all well and good and developmentally appropriate, I'm sure, but the poor boy believes her, no matter how much I tell him that she's only saying it and that really, deep down inside (just like Anthony, if you've read about Anthony) she loves him. "No, I don't," says Mabel.
So then he has to go and ask her to pour lemon juice on his paper cut, thus:
- Mabel, who do you like?
- Mummy, and Daddy, and everyone, and I hate you.
- Mabel, if Mummy and Daddy weren't here, who would you like?
- I'd still hate you.
- If there was nobody else in the world except me, would you like me then?
- No, I'd hate you. You're poopy.
Of course, in between times they play together, or sit together companionably, and everything's just fine because she's forgotten her fraternal stance, but then she remembers and thinks she'll just stir things up a bit, so she pinches him. Viciously. For no good reason, as he always tells me.
"I did have a good reason. But it's a secret," she retorts.
And for the most part, he doesn't fight back. He's not a saint, so sometimes she gets her just desserts, and other times he just idiotically hangs out waiting - even asking, literally - for more; but so often he's sad about it, and he tries his best to be a really nice big brother. He picks things up when she drops them, and finds her toys if she wants them, and generally does her bidding in the hopes of winning favour. (Sometimes I wish he'd be a little more assertive. She's got assertive all sewn up, and then some.)
Trying to parse her behaviour somewhat, I suppose she's testing her boundaries and playing with her power. She's pushing him to see if she can really push him all the way away. She doesn't dare do that to me (since I'm attached to the very important boobies, remember) and Dash is a far easier target than Daddy. She's learning that she can bestow or withold affection, how it feels to be mean, and how it makes other people feel. Not a fun thing to watch, but I suppose it's necessary.
One day last week when she was horribly overtired, having needed a nap but only got ten minutes in the car, and then managed not to go to bed until too late, her sobs gave me some insight into her psyche: "It's not fair," she hiccupped at me, "that Dash was the first one out of your tummy."
That's it, basically. There's no competition like a three-year-old's competition, and no matter how many times she bests him by announcing "Whoever's a girl wins! I win!" her brother will always have won the first, the biggest, the most important race of them all. He was born first. Until she comes to terms with that, she's just going to have to work out her resentment with all the immaturity she can muster.
(I've reserved Ames & Ilg's Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy from the library, and in fact today's outing was meant to be to pick it up, but we haven't made it out yet. I read it back when Dash was rising three, but I think a re-read would be timely. I'm hoping it will tell me this is very normal behaviour for her age, but for the moment I'm just spouting psychobabble off the top of my head. So don't sue me if I'm way off target.)
I hope that she soon decides it's more fun to be nice than mean. This morning she did announce to Dash that she likes him, to his secret delight, so maybe things are moving in the right direction. Or maybe she's just toying with his affections. I already feel sorry for her first boyfriend. Make that her first five or six boyfriends.