Lottie and Max have a rather fraught relationship. They are similar personalities in many ways (don’t tell them I said that), but they clash on the regular. Finding common ground when you are an 8-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy can be difficult.
It’s interesting watching their interactions (and trying not to intervene). They find each other frustrating to deal with, which always brings out the worst in anyone. The Badoo’s frustration with her brother means she physically lashes out at him, and his frustration rests in not being able to fight back. Max is well trained in keeping his hands and feet to himself. As a boy who is twice the size of other kids his age it has been an important lesson for him to learn.
For Max, the Badoo is simply annoying. He struggles to remember that she is eight and he is twelve. That she is a girl and he a boy. That she is the littlest kid and he the eldest. “She’s showing off,” he bleats, when Lottie is really just trying to hold her own. “She won’t stop talking,” he moans, when he is equally good at talking but of course finds his own topics more interesting. “She watches silly programs on TV that mess with young brains, which I don’t care about, of course, but I think you should know,” because he secretly cares a lot.
“What’s the most important thing a brother can do?” I often ask Max.
“Look after his sisters,” he sighs. “I know this, Mum.”
I remind him that part of ‘looking after’ someone is being generous with your time. It’s forgiving them their little foibles and allowing them to simply be themselves. To not want to change them, or stifle them or discourage them. ‘Looking after’ someone is hard work.
From time to time I make them spend time with each other. Which consists of both of them wandering around the house looking for things to argue over. Max doesn’t want to play anything Lottie wants to play and Max’s stuff is boring. They end up jumping on the trampoline for hours, talking about how bored they are and how unfair mum is and causing me to high-five myself for being so clever.
Every time I want to tear my hair out at them bickering and whinging at each other (and oh, my, god don’t we want to eat our young when they are behaving like that!?), something will happen to remind me that they’ve got this. For instance, the other day as we walked out of the school grounds (oh, would this rain stop so they can go back to walking home), I overheard this conversation:
“UGH! ER! YUCK! Stop holding my hand, Lottie!”
“But I like to hold your hand, Maxi.” She looked up at him with her big, shiny eyes just oozing with pride and you could see Max melting into putty.
“Well, you can hold my hand, but I’m not holding yours, okay?”
And off they went.