[This is about an incident that took place in 2001 that I didn’t write about at the time, and I really should have. Generally, I don’t identify the kids by name, but I have to for this one to make sense. Sorry kids!!]
My kids keep a lot of secrets from me and always have. I love to listen to them laugh together and huddle over some joke that they think is too mature or too immature to share with me. Who cares what the joke is?
They have never been bullies with each other, except that one phase when they undeniably were bullying Olivia. The details surface little by little now, because so much time has passed and Olivia is an incredibly gracious sport about it all.
When she was four, her sisters formed the IHOP Club.
The IHOP club was their way of formalizing the idea, “I Hate Olivia Period.” If she thought it really was about pancakes, she would have joined immediately, too.
Four-year-old humans are some of the most irritating creatures possible, so her sisters’ annoyance was understandable. It bothered her that she was excluded from their big girl games, so I tried to help her with the pariah phase. I told her that four-year-olds are annoying (as are sevens and elevens) and that she would be five soon, and things would be much better then. I also told her that Spunky actually loved her, even though she said she hated her, every day. We went over this many, many times.
She would come wailing to me and I’d hug her and tell that she wasn’t awful and that big kids can love people without realizing that they actually love them. Nearly a year of this phase with all these people who just could not get along and be civil was torture.
Olivia’s baby sister would coo at her and she would tell me that babies were useless. It was her dark period too.
Twin Time would help for a day now and then, but the miserable exclusion went on until something terrible happened.
Their dad took Olivia and her sisters to a festival. Whatever else might have vied for their attention, the younger girls were eager to get inside the enormous inflatable bouncy house. I always hated to turn them loose in attractions like that. They would be so hard to extract. So many threats would be needed to get them out and into shoes again.
Da didn’t need to do that, however, because the power dropped out and the bouncy house collapsed very quickly. He told me all about it afterward and it sounded horrible. All that rubberized material fell on the kids like a ponderous, sweaty skin. They were swallowed by a carnival whale.
“Spunky saved me,” said Olivia. Da went on to say that Spunky had lunged directly for Olivia as the cave-in started and wrestled her out into the air again.
“She’s a hero,” said Da. There were no serious injuries, but there were a lot of freaked out parents and kids.
A day or so later, Olivia came wailing to me again to complain about her sisters. “Spunky hates me. She says she really hates me. Period!”
“No. Now you have proof that she loves you, remember?” She brightened as she understood what her rescue really meant.
She stomped off crowing, “You love me! I know you really love me!”
Her conviction on that was permanently settled.