During the summer of 2013 I sat in the library reading a beautiful essay published in Brain, Child. It was a story about a woman with three kids ages five, nine and 12. The 12-year-old, she wrote, started pulling away from the family as she got closer to turning 13. The story was poignant and haunting. Thee I was. In library with tears streaming down my face. My older daughter was only 9 at the time so I was crying for what I knew might come.
Big Girl is 11 and she’s starting to show signs of pulling away. She doesn’t want her sister in her room all the time. She asks for time, “so I can just relax and be by myself.” She fights more with her sister. She tells me I am so mean. She’s starting to pull away, I think and yet she’s also trying to hold me close.
It’s so hard to watch. Like the author of the essay I am having a hard time dealing with how my little one is handling all of this. She loves her sister so much. Idolizes her. Up until recently they played together for hours and hours. American Girl dolls. Puzzles. Art projects. Pretend play. They could spend 12 hours just with each other. Now, Big Girl wants time alone. She doesn’t want to be with her sister all the time. She wants her space.
How do I explain to a 6-year-old that her sister may pull away even more as she gets older? How do I take that in, too?
I know that eventually my girls will come full circle. They will hopefully become inseparable again. Until then we’ll just have to deal with my big girl’s slow disappearance. It won’t be easy, but I know it’s just another natural phase. Like teething and potty training we’ll get through it. Hopefully with few tears — mine and theirs.