Here’s my Parenting Perspectives column for today. Funny thing, after I wrote this, Eve started talking about Kayla’s big brother, Becky (Yes, Becky is a boy), as well as her little sister, Emily. I can’t keep up!
Shortly after the arrival of our now 3-month-old son, some new little ones started to hang around the house. The most frequent visitor is Kayla, my daughter’s imaginary granddaughter.
Apparently I’m a great-grandma at the age of 31.
Three-year-old Eve tells me often how she is Kayla’s grandma. So far I’ve been able to deduce that Kayla is 6½ years old, blonde and, based on the way Eve cradles her, roughly 8 inches tall.
Kayla lives in our house, sleeps in Eve’s room, and keeps her clothes “in a drawer upstairs,” Eve tells me. And Eve takes care of her. It’s unclear where Kayla’s parents are. I’m not sure if social services have been contacted.
It’s fascinating to watch this imaginary play, to see Eve embody the role of caregiver. She feeds Kayla, sometimes with a bottle and sometimes by strapping her in a nonexistent highchair. She changes her diaper. And she puts Kayla in timeout. A lot.
“Honey, Honey, Honey. Don’t hit the dog, Honey,” Eve scolds Kayla, scooping up her invisible charge. “Now you have to go to timeout.” I hear my tone in her voice. I realize how often I call Eve “Honey” when trying to redirect her misbehavior.
These grandmotherly duties have also become a convenient excuse for Eve to avoid doing as she’s asked. One afternoon Eve told me she couldn’t put her blocks away, because Kayla was sleeping. I assured her the noise wouldn’t wake Kayla.
Kayla tends to appear when I’m nursing Owen. Eve talks to Kayla the same way I talk to Owen. I’m pretty sure this pretend play is a sort of coping mechanism as Eve adjusts to the major life changes our family is experiencing.
It’s the same reason that at other times, when Kayla is MIA, Eve becomes the baby. She crawls around the floor, her mouth hanging open, making various “gaa” and “goo” noises. Her impersonation never fails to make my husband laugh.
While I occasionally cater to Baby Eve, cuddling her and telling her what a cute baby she is, I’m often frustrated by the routine.
Baby Eve needs to be carried. She needs to be fed. She can’t do anything for herself, so different than my preschooler who, for better or worse, has to do everything on her own.
I realize it’s natural for older siblings to start behaving like a baby, but it’s just too much for me to handle, especially when Baby Eve starts wailing. “I already have a baby to take care of,” I tell Eve. “I can’t take care of another one. Where’s my big girl? I miss her.”
Big Girl Eve is a devoted sister, attentive and affectionate toward little brother Owen. She helps me set the table and bake brownies and put the clothes in the dryer. And, honestly, she’s a lot of fun.
She’s not the overbearing disciplinarian that shirks her other responsibilities, like Grandma Eve. She’s not a helpless, 38-pound infant. The 3-year-old girly-girl is by far my favorite of my daughter’s multiple personalities.
Talk about “The Three Faces of Eve.”
I wonder if my preschooler’s performance would win an Oscar, too.
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Sherri Richards is mother of a 3-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son, and an employee of The Forum. She also blogs at http://topmom.areavoices.com