11 Oct Fern and Cubby
It was a lovely, cool Saturday in October. Two-year-old Cubby was in his crib, sleeping soundly. Fern, his four-year-old sister, decided she was going to get him up and show him what school is. She lowered the side of the crib and picked up her sleeping brother. Putting him in a big chair, she told him, “This is what you do at school.” She pointed to paper and colored pencils that she had put out on a small white table. “You draw. So Cubby, draw.”
Cubby was startled by her definite and very unfamiliar request. He began to cry.
“You can’t cry, Cubby. You’re in school. Draw.”
Just then, their father, Phil Rawlings walked into the room. “Well, look at you two. This looks great. I am going to read the paper. Let’s let Mommy sleep.”
Cubby squirmed off the big chair and began to walk towards his father.
“Wait just a second.” Fern said, in a very bossy tone. “The school is here.”
“Me not going to gool.” Cubby said firmly.
“You are too. This is a school only for you and I am your teacher.”
Cubby tried to get away from Fern but she grabbed his arm. He began to cry.
“Okay baby,” she said sternly. “You will have school later.”
Cubby ran to his father. “Fern bees mean to me. Me don’t like her bad gool.”
Half listening, Phil patted his son. “Okay, Buddy. Let’s not wake up Mommy.
From the hallway Fern looked at Cubby sitting close to their father. Cubby saw her and nuzzled into his father’s chest. A little while later he peeked out to see her still staring at him. She stuck her tongue out at Cubby.
“Daddy, Fern sticked her tongue out at me.”
“She doesn’t mean anything, Cubby.”
Sarah Rawlings walked into the room and smiled.
“Hi Honey,” said Phil.
Cubby sat up. “Hi Mommy. Fern bees mean a lot.”
“She waked me up and made me go to gool.”
Sarah carried Cubby into the kitchen. Pouring herself some coffee, she asked, “Are you hungry, Cub?”
From an undetermined spot, they heard, “I am.”
Cubby reached up to be carried again as Fern came into the kitchen, glaring at Cubby.
“Good morning, Fern. What would you like?”
“I would like you to give Cubby to the Branders. I bet they would like a real crybaby.”
Sarah put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders and looked into her face.
“Fern, Cubby is ours. He is here to stay.”
“Why did you ask me what I would like then?” Fern ran out of the kitchen.
Cubby slowly and delightedly ate a bowl of berries. “Mommy, not the Branders.”
“I know dear. Fern doesn’t want you to go either. We’ll help her to cheer up.”
Phil came in and picked up Cubby. “There’s my big boy,” he smiled, holding him up high.
“Well, I’m bigger,” a small voice called out. “Much bigger.”
“Where is our Fern? Phil winked at Sarah. “I want a hug.”
Fern slinked into the kitchen as Cubby hid his face in his father’s shirt.
“I was thinking we’d go apple picking today. What do you think, Fern,” asked Phil, reaching to pat her too.
Fern helped herself to berries, spilling several. She looked at Cubby to see if he had seen her. He was patting Mamie, their cat. He had his cheek on her dark fur, listening to her purr. They all agreed that picking apples would be fun.
Everyone got dressed quickly. They were in the car in no time. Sarah felt the tiff between the children was just the tip of the iceberg. She had separated the car seats as much as the seat would allow and hoped for the best. As Phil backed out, Fern looked over at Cubby. “Hi baby.”
Phil stopped the car. “Fern, I know you are upset today. Mommy and I are sorry. We all want to have a nice day. If you can’t be nice, we will call Mrs. Triaca to stay with you.”
“You like Cubby more now.”
“Fern, we love you both. And you know it. You have to stop this,” her mother said firmly.
They drove out of town. Cubby looked out the window at the things going by. “Me see a dog. Me see a man on a blue bike.”
Fern corrected him. “It is I see, not me see.”
Cubby said nothing. He continued to look out the window. “Me see a cow. Anover cow!” Fern sighed loudly.
At the orchard, they were given a few sturdy baskets. Another family was already picking. They also had two children; the younger child looked about the same age as Cubby. He had long wavy blonde hair and screamed a lot. He bit the apples as they were put in the baskets, although his family asked him not to. Fern watched as the little boy threw an apple that he had bitten at his older sister. His parents laughed because it was a surprisingly good shot. The sister looked hurt and stalked away.
“Get over it, Lindsay,” her father called after her. “He’s younger than you.”
“Fern, Cubby, let’s give them a head start,” Sarah told them. “We want a happy time.”
Cubby found a tiny apple and polished it on his jeans. “Here you go, Fern.”
“Thanks!” Fern held the shiny little apple and looked at the larger apple she was holding. “I am the bigger apple and you are the tiny one.”
Just then the blond boy came running toward them, holding his sister’s pink head band, yelling, “Ha ha.”
“That boy not nice,” Cubby observed.
“Right, Cubby.” Fern said quietly.
“Cubby, Fern, thank you for being such nice children. I am so glad to not be their mother.” She glanced forward at the other family. The girl was crying bitterly, while the boy continued to throw apples.
On the way home, Cubby fell asleep. Fern polished a large apple thoughtfully. She wanted to give it to Cubby as soon as he was awake.
The car stopped, in their driveway. “That was fun,” said Phil.
“It really was,” Fern said happily. She didn’t try to wake up Cubby. She didn’t undo his car seat buckle. Quietly she opened her door.
Cubby was put in his crib. Fern ran to her room and covered him with her favorite kitty blanket.
A little while later, Fern crept into his room and quietly put in the polished large apple and the tiny one in his crib before she tiptoed out.
Back downstairs she went. As Fern was helping to cut the apples, she heard Cubby calling, “Fern. Pwease come.” She ran to Cubby’s room. There he was holding his apples.
“We’re happy now.” He smiled at her.
Fern looked at her little brother. “We are.”
Fern was having a hard time. She had been the most important person in her young parents’ lives for the first two years of life. When Cubby, came along, he slept most of the time. Then he became a presence. In Fern’s perception, he was the favorite.
At this point, her parents need a whole new continent of parenting skills. It is only natural for Fern to have new emotions. She may feel betrayed, jealous, and lonesome for her old life. Her parents try to be fair. They are learning all the time. They are able to feel their powerful and important position as Fern’s parents as they see the family ahead of them.
Her mother and father want to help Fern feel that her spot in the family is a valued one and always will be. Fern is fortunate that Cubby, right now, wants peace. Her brother’s gentle nature is a godsend.
At different stages of their lives, the children will probably have unpleasant bouts with one another. Vying for extra attention and proof of their parent’s love is inevitable. These parents now have their eyes and ears open. For the time being they are going carefully by their wits.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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