The maternal instinct has not blossomed within Little Missy quite yet

It wasn’t that Baby Chickadee preferred G over her sister for most of her life, it’s just that she wasn’t ever scared of G and so naturally gravitated toward him. She was, however, often scared of her sister.

The maternal instinct has not blossomed within Little Missy quite yet. When G would get down at teeny Baby Chickadee’s eye level and coo a sweet “Hi, Baby, how are you today?” Little Missy would run at Baby Chickadee in her bouncy seat, stop just before toppling over, wave frantic jazz hands in front of her baby sister’s face and yell “Hi, Baby, how are you?!” before running off again. Baby Chickadee’s newborn eyes would light up in delighted response to her brother; they would open wide in startled response to her sister.

Little has changed since Baby Chickadee was an actual baby. Little Missy has calmed down a titch, but instead of speaking in a soothing voice to her sister after school like her brother does, she instead looks at her with a slight smile and says, “Hi!” before going back to her own thoughts.

But for some reason, even though Little Missy has not changed her interactions with her sister, Baby Chickadee is enamored with her older sister. She stares at her, watches her movements, and unconsciously copies them.

I knew something had changed for certain when the kids and I stopped at a gas station while running errands last week. The big kids chose milkshakes for their snack and Baby Chickadee chose a package of two cupcakes. Once in the vehicle, right as we began to enjoy our sugar, Baby Chickadee handed half of her treat to Little Missy with a “Here you go, Sissy!” and a bright smile. We all looked at the cupcake, then at Baby Chickadee to gauge whether she was serious, then at Little Missy to see how she’d respond, then back to Baby Chickadee. A chorus of “Are you suuuuuure, Baby Chickadee?” erupted from the three of us all at once, because she was giving half her treat to her sister, who already had quite a large treat of her own. Baby Chickadee nodded her head and continued to smile, all the while keeping her eyes on her sister. And so Little Missy ate half the cupcake and shared the other half with G, all while Baby Chickadee watched her sister enjoying the gift freely given.

Then Wednesday I wanted a Diet Dr. Pepper and, seeing as how it was Happy Hour at Sonic, I cajoled Baby Chickadee into hurrying out the door so we could buy drinks for all of us before picking up the big kids from school. In the drive-thru line she asked for Sprite. I turned in my seat to look at her. You see, every time we’re at a restaurant that doesn’t serve root beer but only Sprite for their non-caffeinated choices, Baby Chickadee gets upset. “I only want da bwown pop!” And yet here we were in the drive-thru, with apparently tens of thousands of drink options laid before her, and she chose Sprite, the very pop she’s cried over receiving in the past.

Because you know who drinks Sprite at every restaurant? Little Missy. And that day Baby Chickadee remembered that tidbit about her favorite sister and decided it was high time to copy.

So far, we are free of the frantic jazz hands in people’s faces. But trust you me, once that starts I will put the kibosh on that level of copying.

Right now I might kind of encourage it.

Erin Fox is a busy wife and mother of three. She is a weekly columnist for the Times- Gazette.