“We’re hiding under the blankets, cause there might be bandits.” Two of the three little lumps in the biggest sister’s bed poke their scarf covered heads out, playing they are lost on the prairie, chased to the wildness, hunting for food, orphans fighting for survival, before breakfast.
I want to wrap them in hugs and keep them together forever, just like this moment. Because yes, my sweet dears, there might be bandits. The world is big and scary and full of bandits, and bad guys, of so many types, kinds and manner. The bandits are real, but in disguise, and hard to spot until it is too late. Hiding seems like a good idea, but reality is, we must stand up and fight the bandits. We must face our fears, face the world and carve out our own valley of calmness and serenity in the big, wide, crazy world. And it is time to get up and dressed, and ready to go to a play date so I can go to work, while you play with more small friends in the cocoon of childhood.
The eldest is on the verge of the abyss of the big wide world, testing her toe here and there to judge the temperature of the ‘real world’, the world outside of this bunk, outside of this house, outside of this family. She will lead her sisters, and me as well, through mazes and tunnels, and past many bands of bandits. There will be hideouts, encampments, and many battles within our small group, as well as with the many other ‘bandits’ we will encounter. And eventually, she will emerge on the other side, a grown woman of her own.
The middle one walks the line between big and little, most often playing the joker, lightening the game with giggles and laughter. She follows her big sister with the unwavering pledge of allegiance of the second born to Her rules, Her games, and Her ideas. Until the days and moments when she doesn’t want to follow ANY MORE. Then my middle lashes out on her own, forging her own path across the wide river of trials and tribulations of childhood (who will play the princess, who will be the queen, how to properly build a fort, and when to stop for snacks). The time is coming, sooner than I would like, when she too, dips her toes into the turbulent waters of ‘real life’ beyond my world of mothering protection.
And of course, following closely behind is the littlest. Happy to play the baby, the one who needs to be carried, and dressed, and who makes horrible whining sounds in an attempt to replicate the crying baby. A strong spitfire, she does not follow for as long as the middle child, tending instead to challenge the eldest and reshape the whole game to her favor. Always near the edge of break down, especially when she is hungry, and feels so strongly wronged, (how could her sisters not see that she was really hurt and that was a real cry!!?). She is the deepest in the cocoon of childhood, but yet much less than her sisters were at that tender age of almost eight. She has the privilege as well as the burden of experience beyond her years as she tots along in the shadow of her sisters. At night, when putting her to bed, I am reminded she is still truly small, and innocent and needing reassurance and comfort. She still needs the calm moments of cuddles, as these bandit games perhaps are pushing the reality/fantasy border as she is still in the beginning stages of emerging from the dreamlike state of early childhood.
We will all head off for the day, toward the bandits. I will face the big world bandits of work, bills, obligation and deadlines; and they will face the bandits of childhood: time, growing responsibilities, and the approaching tween years.