So What if My Daughter’s Best Friend is Her Little Brother?

 

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     It’s a unique kind of bond that I never witnessed before now, the relationship between homeschooled siblings. There is extreme love and affection, muddled with moments of annoyance and offbeat humor. There are tears of frustration, and tears from laughing so hard that you fall off the couch. There are cheers, claps, and hollers from both little and big accomplishments. There are pushes and shoves, “get out of my seats,” soon erased by kisses, hugs, and sweet words of forgiveness.
     Before my son was born, it was just my daughter and me for most of the day. We would: read, practice handwriting, memorize math facts, play learning games, take care of our pets, go for stroller walks and bike rides, and often visit my parents when tasks were finished. As she got older, the work got more involved, yet she continuously sped past concepts with amazing clarity. My daughter loved homeschool, loved learning, and loved our special times together before her daddy got home from work.
     It was the summer before her fourth birthday when we first told our daughter I was expecting, I remember her praying and pleading to God that He give her a little sister. She picked out names for the coming addition, oohed and ahhed over baby girl clothes through store windows. We took her to the gender reveal ultrasound, where she cried authentic tears after discovering we were having a boy. From then on, she would tell every person who would listen, verbatim, that, “Mommy is having a boy, but I’m a little disappointed because I really wanted a girl, and I was going to name her Mavis.”
     After a cesarean birth due to the breech position, followed by some initial breathing issues, we brought her little brother home from the NICU. To this day, she still brings up “the week where we didn’t do homeschool,” those times when Daddy “made me take a shower instead of a bubble bath,” and “fed me M&M’s for breakfast.” Once back home, I got her straight into our routine, albeit a little different. I would nurse her brother at the table while we did math, and she would sit on his fluffy bear rug to do work pages on her clipboard next to him. We would snuggle and read together on the couch, while little feet got stronger at kicking away a big sister taking up his space by mommy.
     My daughter was the first one to bring up homeschooling the little guy. He was only six months old at the time, but she asked to get him his own clipboard. I told her that reading aloud to him and playing would suffice for now, until he gets bigger. “He’s going to get bigger?” she cried out of devastation. Somehow in that gifted brain, she never realized that yes, baby brother would grow up one day to be bigger than she. Shortly after accepting this fact, baby brother began speaking. His first word was “daddy,” second “Yaya,” and third “mommy.” It didn’t take us long to figure out that “Yaya” was meant for big sister, and thus began her new nickname. As for baby brother, he began calling himself “JoJo” a couple of months later.
     Yaya was in for a shock as JoJo quickly became more mobile. We erected baby gates to keep him an eye on him during important school tasks. She referred to the playpen and gated areas as “baby jail” and would giggle when she’d need a lift from Mommy past the blocked entrances. They loved to make each other laugh, and to this day have a secret language of smirks and chuckles only they can understand.
     When JoJo turned two years old, Yaya declared herself the official teacher’s assistant. We began setting aside twenty to thirty minutes a day for alphabet and number activities. She taught him how to count to ten, then twenty, by lining up his favorite matchbox cars. We did letter of the day, tracing, sang songs, and made alphabet lapbooks. They took turns circling beginning sound word pictures, and it was then that I realized the academic and interpersonal strengths she was gaining in helping me teach her brother.
     JoJo is now three years old and loves homeschooling almost as much as his sister does. (He is not afraid to stack his books on top of me or wave them in my face when he believes it is his turn for instruction). Currently, he is working slowly yet surely on learning how to read. Yaya is seven, forging ahead years from her peers in math and English. We often refer to JoJo as the “class clown,” as it seems his main priority in life is to make people laugh. He still has some “grumpy bumpkis” times, but is an affectionate little boy with his immediate family. YaYa is silly yet serious, with a sensitive soul and deep appreciation for nature. A “mother hen” of sorts, she watches out for her little brother and is not afraid to chastise him when necessary. They spend all day together, from early morning when JoJo wakes up to snuggle in bed with sister, to nighttime, when he kisses her softly on the cheek and says, “goodnight Princess Yaya.” (I told you my daughter is smart; she even has little bother referring to her as royalty)!
     I break up the day into learning segments to keep things interesting and engaging. They ride their tricycles around the great room every morning to stretch their legs. They engage in sociodramatic play, their favorite roles being: doctor, car mechanic, knight, cowboy/cowgirl, veterinarian, and teacher. They play with: kinetic sand, stamps, play-doh, hot wheels, Legos, Barbies, Shopkins, Marvel Superheroes, Calico Critters, and Playmobil sets. YaYa does her morning work and practices piano while JoJo slams around matchbox cars and builds with blocks. They take an early lunch with a learning show, followed by rolling around in fresh warm laundry and helping me care for our menagerie of pets. In no particular order, we: snuggle on the couch and read novels together, learn math, language arts, and science/social studies. At some point JoJo does his own reading lesson, handwriting, and math skills. Depending on what day it is, we often: follow up with Bible or art lessons, play outside, run errands, or visit my parents. The spaces between are filled with: learning games, “free time” on their iPads with learning apps, snacks (lots and lots of snacks), jaunts outdoors chasing around the chickens, tummy rub breaks for our golden retriever, text messages to Daddy, phone calls to Nana, and more.
     In other words, we live a full life. I am busy yet blessed, and my children are joyful.
     Most days are awesome, where JoJo and Yaya get along like two peas in a pod. Sure, there are squabbles and arguments, but nothing unusual, and never anything long-lasting. Occasionally I have to separate them into different rooms to get them off each other’s nerves, or give a stern warning that bullying is not tolerated. If I become frustrated with the teasing, I try to remind myself: my older siblings and I fought horribly as children, and we spent seven plus hours away from each other every weekday in public school! My kids are together, all the time, every day, no matter what. They do homeschool together, play together, go to doctors, haircuts, grocery trips, piano lessons together. The longest the two are ever separated is in Sunday school for about half an hour. Can you imagine spending that much time, day after day after day, with your own sibling?
     This brings me to my next point: my kids are best friends. Just ask them, and they will tell you. Sure, they have cousins they visit, friends from church, and children they cross paths with from time to time. Those relationships are special, yet they pale in comparison to the love, the devotional bond between this brother and sister. I’ve been asked by well-meaning people, “Don’t you think they should have more friends their own age?” I respond, “Why? What makes friendship between children the same age better? Why should they wait until they are grown-ups to construct a meaningful relationship with their sibling?”
     “So what if my daughter’s best friend is her little brother?”

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