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Sibling Protection

A spontaneous bonding experience for Olivia and Hailey placed me in an awkward and morally conflicting situation. It all went down on ‘Daddy Day’ at our local public library. The newly remodeled children’s wing was completely packed. The rainy day drew quite a crowd and the ‘reading castle’ appeared more like the mall playground than a quiet place for children to indulge in book perusing. To avoid the vigorous mass of little bodies I had quickly devised a plan for each girl to find a book for me and I would read aloud to them. They each acquired a book without hesitation. We found a cozy corner, a couple of big round rainbow-colored pillows to settle into and all was going well for about three pages of the first book, however the loud chattering and all the action was just too distracting for them. So they set off on a glorious campaign to conquer the castle.

 

Ten seconds later, my girls were completely oblivious to my existence. So I decided to reserve a book for myself through the library’s computer catalogue, only twenty feet from the castle. Five minutes pass and suddenly my daddy radar went off, code red. I overhear Olivia’s bossy voice “No, you can’t come up here!” I assumed she was talking to Hailey. I downgraded my alert status to orange. Olivia was standing at the top tower of the multi-level apparatus. I could see her through the plexiglas window but I couldn’t see Hailey. Olivia continued to shout, “I said no. You! Can’t! Come! Up! Here!” Time for a daddy intervention. My mind raced for the right thing to say, ‘Olivia the castle is for everyone to share’ was the best I could think of. As I approached the freshly painted faux-stone palace I saw that Olivia was not yelling at Hailey but rather a young boy. I was somewhat confused; confronting a stranger with such nastiness was completely out of character for Olivia. The wiry boy was a bit taller than Olivia I guessed him to be about three maybe three and a half years old. I had noticed him and his older brother, probably six-ish, when we first arrived at the library. The two brothers were there with a young Russian nanny, who at the time of the altercation was indulged in a hair brushing from big brother. She was teaching big brother the proper technique. Her heavy ascent was a dead giveaway of her place of origin. She was clueless and aloof in her duty to the young three year old.

 

The poor little guy, he whimpered, “bbbut I wwwant too” and as I moved closer, I could see Olivia obstructing his passage to the top level of the castle. For me to climb-up inside the play fortress and get in between them was impossible, the custom crafted play castle was definitely designed for tykes. I was just about to give the top level plexiglas window a solid tap to get Olivia’s attention when the little boy gave up and turned away. But Olivia was not finished with her maliciousness, she followed him down level by level, soon I saw the little guy come down the exit slide on the other side of the citadel. Olivia flew out right behind him and blasted him with her feet. The two of them start jawing at each other as I made my way over to them. “You kicked me!” The little boy finally stood up for himself. Olivia quickly shouted back, “No I didn’t!” Just as I’m about to put the Vulcan-death-grip on her, out of nowhere, Hailey comes at the boy fists clenched with the velocity and quickness of a bolt of lightning, striking the unsuspecting little guy right in the gut. He doubled over, stumbled, almost fell down and then ran to the safety of his nanny and big brother.

 

Honestly, and this was my moral dilemma, I wanted to congratulate Hailey for her bravado and rushing-in to defend her sister. It took me a few seconds to take in the whole situation. The boy was crying and shaking while hugging his nanny, so distraught he couldn’t verbalize what happened. Hailey, with steely confidence and fists still tightly clenched had her eyes locked on the young boy waiting for any retaliation. Olivia was indifferent to what had just transpired or rather tried to look innocent. I didn’t congratulate. I didn’t scold. I simply pulled them into a corner and said that it was time to settle down and take a break. I told Olivia that I saw what she did and stressed the importance of, “no kicking and you hurt that little boy.” I also calmly explained to Hailey “no hitting.” I gave them both a warning and that any more hitting, kicking, pushing, and/or shouting would result in us having to leave the library.

 

After a minute of rest and reflection, they were very good for the duration of our library visit. They sketched with the library’s miniature golf-scorecard sized pencils, they searched for interesting books and they even sat down with me for a whole book reading. Olivia had found two Disney Princess books, carried them along with her library card up to the librarian’s desk and check-out. Hailey got her own card made and borrowed two Sesame Streetbooks. I noticed that the victimized boy eventually calmed down and had kept his distance form my girls. Can you blame him? So I assumed he was physically ok.

 

Even now as I write this, the ethical question still rolls around in my head; Is it wrong for me to feel proud of Hailey for sticking up for her sister the way she did? Obviously I don’t want to encourage her hitting little defenseless strangers, but I really wanted to reward her for protecting and defending her sister.

 

Originally Posted on BabyCenter, 09/09/06

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