My daughter Rae turned 6 on Saturday, and while I am shedding my own tears about my little girl growing up, no one seems to be suffering as badly as my 4-year-old son Rocco. He idolizes his big sister like nothing I've ever seen. He hangs on her every word, he copies her every move, and he takes her proclamations as gospel. If I tell him not to do something, he will say, "But Rae told me I could." I find myself repeatedly reminding him that Rae is not in charge, Mommy and Daddy are in charge. But I can't seem to get it through to him. To Rocco, Rae is the Queen of the Castle.
This would be fine if the relationship between brother and sister were an equal partnership. Unfortunately, the adoration is often one-sided. Don't get me wrong -- Rae loves her little brother dearly. But she doesn't worship him as he does her. As a result, Rocco is often the one who gets his heart broken. He gets on Rae's nerves often, and she ends up yelling at him, sending him into a fit of tears. At the playground, she likes to play with girlfriends her own age, often leaving him behind. And when it comes to toys and games, Rae is ALWAYS the boss, all the time.
The gap in the relationship seems to get bigger as Rae gets older. She just turned 6, so she'll be going into first grade next year, riding the school bus to the "big school." Rocco will just be starting a half-day preschool next year three days a week.
The problem was highlighted last night during bath time. Normally, they both get a bath together before bed. But last night, Rae told us she wanted to take a bath by herself. My husband said he thinks she is getting to the point where she doesn't want to take a bath with her brother anymore. She needs her privacy. I agreed and thought it was a good time for her to start bathing by herself. I didn't anticipate Rocco's reaction.
When the idea of Rae taking her own bath finally sunk in, huge tears welled up in his eyes. His bottom lip poked out. I could tell he wasn't trying to have a tantrum or a fit. He was genuinely and completely heartbroken. Very quietly, he said, "I'm going to want to take a both with Rae," and put his arms tightly around me and cried.
I explained to him that Rae still loved him - she was just getting older and needed her privacy. He cried for a while, until the idea that he didn't have to share his toys in the bath finally sunk in, and he warmed up to the idea. He took a long bath while Rae took her first shower all by herself.
While it was just a small incident with a few tears, I feel this is only the beginning of a long and heartbreaking experience. Rocco will be left behind at each stage of Rae's life - middle school, high school, driving, boyfriends, graduation, college. I only hope she realizes how important she is to him and treats him with the adoration he feels for her.