Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for January, 2013

The Student Has Become The Master

Sisters go through sister rivalries and our girls are no different. My brother and I usually inflicted on a lot of damage on one another (well, given his 5+ year and huge size advantage, that damage was usually in one direction), but we were and still are always there for each other. Still, it’s easy to get a little concerned when Iris tries to push around Robyn. Any time Iris mistreats Robyn, I pull her aside and remind how important Robyn is to her and will always be to her. And how Robyn was the greatest gift we could ever give to Iris. And Iris’ responsibility to Robyn as an older sister, both as a model and as support. To be fair, Iris does realize all of this at times.  But still, I occasionally find the need to interject and provide a learning moment. I had that chance last night. As with most of my blog posts, this one ended with a surprise twist.

Years ago, I worked with Iris on a series of “Sight Words” that kids are recommend to recognize to create a foundation for reading.  In fact, I even blogged about the experience.  Well, now Robyn has reached that age, but since I no longer work from home, it’s been a little harder to find the time to do the lessons.  While we do get some in, I feel like I’ve been slacking.  But hey, we’ve got another reader in the house!  So last night, I told Iris to help Robyn with her word chart for 10 minutes to see if she could help Robyn improve. I’d give them a penny per word that she gets right (there were 50 words), but they’d each get a dollar if Robyn got all 50. I was feeling pretty safe.  After all, Saturday night, she might’ve gotten 35 words and needed help on many of those. I figured this would take a couple of days of practice to be able to get all 50.  I was about to give Iris a lesson in patience.  Sometimes, struggling together creates a valuable bond (just like friends from freshman year of college, army buddies, etc).  But then something funny happened. I came into the room and they were playing. I was a little annoyed, thinking they didn’t take my exercise seriously.  Then Iris says “we finished early, so we just decided to play for a little bit.” Done early? Why, of all the selfish things, they probably didn’t even look at the words! What the heck? I was going to have to teach them a lesson about responsibility and commitment. And then it happened.

As I pointed to the first word, Iris stopped me and asked if she could point to the words.Umm, OK. Iris started pointing to words and Robyn started rattling them off, one by one in rapid fire. Robyn got the first column and I thought “hey, that’s great”.  And then she got past the word “little”, which she kept struggling with on Saturday.  That’s when I knew something was happening here. I started cracking up as I started realizing she was getting past every hard one and she actually had a shot at perfection.  I started to lose count because she was going so fast, but I also started to realize it wouldn’t matter. By the last words (which were special words Iris requested three years ago: “Mother”, “Father”, “Walnut”, “Creek”), I was laughing, Cherise was laughing, Robyn was beaming, and Iris was acting nonplussed—as if to say “of course she got them all”.  I pulled out my wallet and gave each of them a crisp dollar bill.  I gave both of them a huge hug as I handed them the money and told them how proud I was of both of them. As Cherise put up the new chart, I looked at Iris and said “you know, you can help her with this new chart and maybe you’ll make another dollar.” And she said something to me that I should come to expect from my eldest daughter, even amidst her occasional bouts of selfishness that most seven-year olds goes through. “That’s OK, Daddy. I don’t need the money.  I just like helping Robyn.” Exact quote. The daughter who seemed extra motivated whenever I mentioned money was at stake for a task. The daughter who occasionally takes delight in tormenting her sister. And she offers to tutor for free, even after she’s seen the earning potential of the offer.

I’m not naive. They’ll be quibbling by breakfast tomorrow and the roller coaster will continue.  But maybe sister bonding doesn’t need the help I was trying to provide. Looks like I got the lesson instead of giving one. Best $2 I ever spent.

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