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My five year old daughter adores her brother, who is 18 months her senior. He is almost eerily precocious (except when it comes to cleaning up his messes), and she relies on him for information with the same dependency people had on their radios in 1938. As they grow older their relationship is inherently more complex, but her love for him is simple. Grand and simple.

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Not so with her baby sister. As the baby has grown, and begun to take shape as a person, with all the needs and subtle communication this implies, my daughter has taken a sudden and firm dislike to her sister. Playful pats have become a testing ground for not-so-playful swipes, and when the baby cries my daughter’s expression is remarkably calm, even indifferent.

It is not the baby for whom I feel pity, it is my five year old. She knows she is loved, but the frame of her family is now positioned in such a way as to make her forever either pushing away her smaller sibling or frantically trying to catch up to the elder. Unlike my son, who has assumed the role of tyrannical demi-god in the family, or the baby, who is, well, a baby, my daughter finds her identity threatened and challenged from all sides. Poor loved creature; how can I get her unstuck? How can I guide her into her own sense of self, free and fearless, as a towboat pulls a ship to the open ocean?

We incorporate all the usual ingredients: refraining from judgment, attempting to observe the world from her perspective, making sure she has a life independent of her brother and sister, and on and on it goes.

Mainly though, as with all ailments, it’s time. Right now, it’s time with me.

Two days ago I was practicing yoga, and she sat with me while I practiced surya namaskar A & B. Instead of the traditional ujjayi breath, my words to my daughter became the practice.

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We spoke of simple things, like her bear and how much she loves him.

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And, as she lounged on my bed while I attempted to both listen and hold trikonasana, she told me all the “sight words” she’s learned in school.

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Finally my asana session devolved into assisting her into my blood-red stilettos, which I suppose is its own kind of meditative practice.

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She used my yoga mat for a runway.

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Despite all evidence, she insisted the shoes fit her.

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Oh the ache, to ponder how quickly, indeed, they will. My darling child, soon grown, and hopefully at home, in the world and in the middle.

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