Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.
Margaret Mead

Yesterday morning my daughters three came to me and charmingly announced that I was, in their words, “Off the clock.”

“For the whole day!” Juliet said, tucking the duvet in tenderly around my toes. “We’re going to all three get along, all day. And you don’t have to worry about a thing.”

“Well, at least until 12,” Katriel interjected.

Annalise smiled and came to give me a hug. “If we do all get along, then maybe this afternoon when you get up you’ll take us to the store and buy us each a Barbie. Please, Mom. Please?”

I figured there must be a catch to this whole set-up, but they were all so delightful in their desire to please that I let it go. “Yes, maybe I will,” I agreed. “If you girls can get along….”

“Oh, we will!” Annalise interrupted. With a smile she led the younger girls out the door and down to her bedroom, where I later saw this sign posted on the door:Sisters Getting Along

Their sisterly camaraderie was typically short-lived. Not thirty minutes after convening the first-ever ‘Sister Meeting’, all three girls stood in the upstairs hallway outside my bedroom door screaming their lungs out. “That’s mine!” one shouted. “No, mine!” screamed another.  “Let go!” someone wailed.  “No, you let go, you meanie!” screeched someone else.

Soon doors were slammed and someone was slapped across the cheek. One girl cried out in agony while another went storming down the stairs shouting, “I hate you both!”

Throughout this flare-up Damon and I stayed in bed, mute. Even when all three girls were left curled in solitude, howling like abandoned coyotes, we lay there, silent.

At last Katriel opened our bedroom door, her face barely kleenexed dry. She gulped and said, “I’m so sorry about that, Mom. It was just a stupid fight about Chapstick. And Juliet slapped me! But now we’ll get along, I promise.”

So my girls tried again, convening in the kitchen and clattering about until at long last a tray of pancakes was carried up and placed on my stomach as carefully as if that stack of syrupy Bisquik was a new-born babe.

While I ate Annalise played on the oboe and Katriel sang along. Juliet served me milk and coffee and fussed over my every bite . My daughters three hovered over me like a bevy of bees, and I thought how lucky I was to be ‘on the clock’ in the first place.

Soon the girls began an animated discussion of their favorite animals, with Annalise picking the snow leopard, Katriel opting for a grey wolf, and Juliet declaring in Swiss Miss tones, “I don’t have a favorite. I like every animal just the same.”

“Ewww, Juliet!” Katriel gasped. “You like naked mole rats?”

All the girls laughed at that. Annalise said, “That’s not entirely true, Juliet. First you liked horses, then you liked turtles, now you like nothing except your hair!”

The girls burst into giggles again and continued their banter. “What could be finer on a Saturday afternoon than to listen to all of this?” I thought, silently.

And so I rose out of bed and took my daughters three for new Barbies. And I thought of my sister Lorraine and how much I miss her now that we live so far apart. And I wanted to say: Sisters make daily life hard. There is competition, arguments, even tears over the most minute things. But the same sisters that tear you down grow up standing by your side. One day you realize the struggle of sisterhood has made you creative, strong, empowered, interesting women. You know how to stick up for yourself and give of yourself all at the same time. And one day you girls, my girls, will abandon the Barbies and become best friends.

But I didn’t say that. Because my three wouldn’t believe me. And because they had new Barbies to introduce. 

 “This is Chloe and she’s an only child,” Annalise declared, once we were home and the girls were playing upstairs again.

“Hello!” Juliet said. “I’m Stacy. I’m an only child, too. And this is Skipper, my babysitter, not my big sister!”

Katriel went last. “My name is Mia and I live with just my mom and dad in a tall, fancy hotel with a lobby, like Eloise!”  

And I smiled and walked away, content to hear my daughters three, who came to me, chasing after that which they do not know, and never will be.