Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

Sister in a Headlock

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Parenting | 0 comments

My oldest daughter asked us to change her sister’s diaper. (19/40)

Photo by Claudia Raya on Unsplash

There is so much in my oldest daughter’s initiative that seems to come from being the oldest. I recognize it in her because I am the oldest sibling, too.

It is uncomfortable to think that a lot of my personality can be reduced to my birth order.

But it is.

When my parents divorced and my mom won our custody, the message given to me was, “You have to step up and be the man of the house.”

I was 8.

So, I stepped up and raised my sister.

And my mom.

It wasn’t all bad. I’m proud of the adult my sister (and my mom) grew up to be.

I see that drive in Jovie.

It’s not bad. It’s probably the seed of autonomy, independence, and self-confidence. But I want to balance it since I don’t want her to feel responsible for parenting her parents or sister, which seems a theme with the oldest kid in the family.

I also don’t want it to lead to unsafe situations. For example, when we go grocery shopping, my daughter asks me to stop holding her hand from the car to the store. She also wants to hold her sister’s hand.

“That’s gonna be a no for me, dawg.”

I love that she is independent, but cars, in general, are much taller than they used to be a few decades ago. Statistically, my daughter and her sister, Amélie, don’t even make it to the hood, so drivers won’t see them. Also, I don’t trust drivers. My daughters are no match for a distracted driver on an F-350.

But there are situations where I let her take on more responsibility.

Like when we were in the Petaluma library.

It was closing time, and Amélie had her toys all over the ground. I got up to get children’s books in Spanish and asked Jovie, “Please, help your sister clean up!”

When I came back, I saw Amélie rebelling against Jovie’s authority and not cleaning. Jovie resorted to putting her in a headlock and, in her best library voice, whispering in her ear, “I’m trying to help you!!!!”

Jovie wants to help, but she expects a compliant Amélie who would be thrilled to be bossed around by her older sister. But she doesn’t know that Amélie is a typical second kid, and she won’t be told what to do.

On Saturday mornings, I like to take them to a storytelling event at my favorite coffee shop Grand Central. Before we get there, we stop for bacon and sausage at Petaluma Market. It is a routine that I first started, and now it is enjoyed by my daughters. We build a cured meat pyramid just like the USDA recommends it. I think.

We first lay the foundation with sausage patties, install the frame out of sausage links and insulate it with bacon. It won’t keep you dry in light rain, but it is delicious.

I took the box to pay and went to get napkins. I asked Amelie to hold Jovie’s hand while I got napkins.

Amelie refused to hold Jovie’s hand, so Jovie opened her arms wide and started hovering and jumping back and forth as if she were blocking a basketball player to prevent Amélie from going anywhere. Before I got the napkins in the bag, Jovie had Amélie in a headlock again.

I have to be mindful of giving Jovie opportunities to feel like a Daniel Tiger big helper while understanding that when a task feels too big to accomplish, she can take a deep breath and avoid restraining someone by the head and cutting their air supply.


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