The Unbearable Lightness of Morning

Hey, have you seen our little sister?

My youngest daughter doesn’t do mornings. She wakes up last of her two siblings and groggily wanders into the kitchen for breakfast with no more to say than, “I want breakfast.”

I then ask the four-year-old what she wants and she shakes her head no until we get to what she wants to eat. Then she stares out the window or lies her head on the table until breakfast is served, silent as can be.

Then the other day she came into the kitchen and knew exactly what she wanted: to sit in the booster chair that somehow had made it back to the kitchen table after a year or more of disuse.

The problem? Her seven-year-old brother was sitting in it and he wasn’t about to budge. Not even as she voiced her demands, or as she fidgeted or stared at him with darts in her eyes. Not even as she barked out, “I want to sit in the baby chair NOW!”

She repeated the phrase again and again, each time louder, shriller and more desperate.

My son calmly finished his bowl of oatmeal and poured himself a second glass of water that he sipped and savored. This was uncanny for a boy who normally wolfs down his breakfast – or any meal – and bails as quick as he can to play.

Not now. He is relishing this moment in which he is sitting in a booster chair that his sister so desperately wants. He sits until he can hold out no more and then, there he goes, he hops down and races to the bathroom.

The youngest doesn’t waste a second and zips over to the booster chair, her face brightening with her triumph.

And for good measure, she straps herself in with a click. Total satisfaction!

My son comes back into the kitchen and looks at his misfortune. His sister sticks out her tongue at him, and he turns round and marches out, appalled that he has lost his spot.

The youngest smiles brightly and finishes her breakfast, safely strapped into the booster chair.

Then I leave and the kitchen empties except for her sitting there in silence.

I listen and she starts to struggle to unclick the safety belt on the booster chair.

“Hey, I’m stuck,” she yells out to her brother, who is now playing in the living room a few steps away. “Help!”

Her brother doesn’t respond even as her pleading gets louder and louder until finally she belts out, “Daddy!”

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