JEN'S ZEN ~ Sisters: Part 1

Every step down our hallway felt like I had lead weights strapped to my ankles.

My brain was screaming out for that Book of Parenting—the manual that I could turn to page 867 and read, “What to Do When … ”— that simply doesn’t exist.

What to do when each of my two daughters were in their rooms at the end of our hallway, each crying, each upset, and with each step I took I was closer to potentially making matters worse.

Who do I speak with first? Do I go into the room of big sister, or little sister? Either way, I justify one and further hurt the other …


At that time, both girls were enrolled for the first time in acrobatic dance classes, a blend of gymnastics and dance. My oldest daughter was in the intermediate class based on her age, and my youngest was in beginner dance earlier in the week. Both seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience. But my youngest, whose immune system simply would not activate that year, had begun missing classes.

One evening, the dance instructor said to me, “You know, if you ever want to bring her into the intermediate class, just to keep her skills up, you can.”

This seemed like a no-brainer, and with very little thought I gathered up little sister (who was feeling better by that time later in the week) and big sister into the van to both attend big sister’s dance class, together.

And it happened.

While big sister enjoyed acrobatics, she also had to work very hard to train her larger-framed, thicker-built body to perform cartwheels and flips. On the other hand, little sister—built with long legs and arms, and not much else—seemed to have a natural ability to propel her body through the air.

As big sister strived, little sister performed with ease.  

Where big sister struggled, little sister sailed.

“Wow!” the girls in my oldest daughter’s class commented. “You’re so good at …” They fawned over little sister. “I wish I could do a cartwheel like you!” And as I watched little sister gleefully lap up the attention of the big girls, I watched my oldest daughter sink, deflate.

What does it feel like to see someone achieve with ease

the thing that you struggle with?

And what does it feel like when the one who is stealing the show …

is your little sister?

All of 5 years old at the time, little sister rode home in high spirits, gloriously unaware in her youth to the hurt she’d inadvertently caused her sister. She’d simply had a blast! The big girls all thought she was so good. “I loved that class!” she exclaimed. “Can we go back again soon?”

Big sister, on the other hand, fighting back tears, seethed under her breath at me, “Why did you do that to me? Why did you put her in my class? You know how people go all gooey over puppies, but don’t over dogs? Tonight she was the puppy, Mom, and I was just the dog. I don’t ever want her at another one of my classes! Never, Mom! Never!”

I’d have been fine with never. Truly. I hadn’t known quite what would happen in that dance class that night, and I was absolutely fine, fine, fine with it never, never, never happening again.

And, yet, more sickness for little sister. More missing school, more missing dance and the big recital was quickly approaching.

“Jen, can you bring Hope into

the intermediate class this week, please?” the dance instructor asked.

“She needs the practice.”


Every step down our hallway felt like I had lead weights strapped to my ankles.

Big sister had revolted, “No! You said you’d never put her in my class again! I don’t want her there! NO! This is NOT happening!”

Little sister, who didn’t quite understand why attending big sister’s class again was a big deal but who gathered quickly that she was not wanted there, melted into a puddle of hurt feelings and crocodile tears, “Why is she being so mean? Why doesn’t she want me there, Mama?”

Each of my two daughters were in their rooms at the end of our hallway, each crying, each upset for different reasons. My heart broke for each of them, for different reasons.

What is the right thing to do here?

Tick tock, tick tock. Intermediate dance class would be starting soon.

Must make a decision … and hurt one or the other.

Every step down our hallway felt like I had lead weights strapped to my ankles.

What do I do here?



Look for “JEN’S ZEN ~ Sisters: Part 2”. But as we’re all Parents here, and we all face impossible situations that often have no right or wrong answer—and the Book of Parenting simply does NOT exist—can I ask: What would you have done?

Jen W. O'Deay