Life Update: Sister

My four year-old has recently stopped calling his six year-old sister by her actual name and instead has taken to calling her just “sister”. It’s slightly unnerving and makes him sound as though he has been beamed through time from the Dark Ages, where he was the wholesome son of a lowly miller.

“Sister! Father has risen from his slumber – fetch the milking pail from yonder the barn and make haste for the cock is crowing and the sun will soon begin to warm the corn in the fields.”

The most confusing thing about this new development is that he refers to my daughter as “sister” to me, and every time he does it my brain takes a full two seconds to recalibrate and realise that he’s referring to someone I actually know.

“I’m going to find my socks in my sister’s room.”

It’s so weird, your own son referring to your own daughter as “sister”, like you need a crash-course on who everyone is: it makes me feel as though I’ve been thrown into a parallel universe where my children aren’t my children at all and I’m this strange lady that they need to explain everything to.

“My sister said she wants the water bottle!”

Is your sister the one in the pink pinafore with a tutu over the top who I actually happened to give birth to and would know by scent alone, or just from the sound of her breathing, or by her silhouette or the way she walks or the exact curl at the end of her hair, OK then. I think I know which one you mean.

I did think though, that I could adopt this same approach in order to bewilder my husband, by talking about my husband to my husband.

Him: “where are the car keys?”

Me: “they’re wherever my husband left them.”

God it would be brilliant. So much opportunity for passive aggression!

Him: “can you not rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher? I don’t want to nag but it’s every time…”

Me: “my husband does say this every time, but what he doesn’t acknowledge is that his wife finds it entirely unnecessary to rinse before dishwashing. Why not go the whole hog and wash the plate if you’re at the sink rinsing it? I say to my husband this: why own a machine that is literally designed to wash dishes and still feel the need to do the first part of its job for it? Would you do this with other machines? Why not make everyone on an aeroplane flap their arms for takeoff to save the plane’s wings? Because it’s designed to fly, that’s why! In the same way that a dishwasher is designed to wash.”

That’s the sort of thing I could say.

Anyway, it’s quite cute, the sister thing – I think it’s because he’s starting school and he’s very aware that he has an older sister and is secretly very proud of her when he’s not trying to batter her with a plastic cricket bat or steal her kiwi fruit.

Only five thousand more weeks of the school holidays to go! We’re still in building chaos and so can’t go anywhere, even if there was somewhere to go, for at least another couple of weeks. Apparently everything is fully booked and the only Air B&Bs left are a couple of empty garages in West London and a patch of grass on a roundabout in Penzance that’s just about big enough to pitch a tent on…

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26 Comments

  1. August 6, 2021 / 2:06 pm

    Firm no-rinser here as well. If I keep rinsing the dishes, it will waste so much water as the dish washer doesn’t use less just because I did part of his work for him.

  2. Philippa
    August 5, 2021 / 4:47 pm

    My son also does this, he’s two and a half – never calls her by her name, only ‘sister’. Makes us all laugh

  3. Heidi Peters
    August 5, 2021 / 12:37 am

    My 3 year old granddaughter has suddenly started referring to her Mom as “Mother” It sounds so formal and posh…and we’re in a small city in Northern Alberta

  4. Lolly
    August 4, 2021 / 7:56 pm

    Love it !!!
    My youngest son used to refer to his three older brothers as ‘ the brothers’. As in, when are we picking up the brothers from school? Slightly creepy but I found it hilarious and would encourage it at any given opportunity. I didn’t get out much in those days…

  5. Joanne
    August 4, 2021 / 7:49 pm

    I do the same to my sister, have done since I was little and I’m now 38. I always call her sister, even when I’m talking to our parents I always say “my sister” if I’m talking about her … and she does the same about me. Other people have commented they think it’s odd when they’ve overheard it.

  6. Natasha
    August 4, 2021 / 7:46 pm

    Your kiddos sound adorable.
    I’ve turned the tables on my kids. Whenever I hear ‘Môoom’ I’ll answer with : ‘Yes child’.

    Lololol. Husband, why don’t you trim the grass with a pair of scissors before bringing out the lawnmower?

  7. Nova
    August 4, 2021 / 4:03 pm

    My 5 year old also refers to his younger sister as “my sister” – “my sister wants you, mama”. Equal parts endearing and odd – do I not know she’s your sister if you refer to her by name?

  8. Susan
    August 4, 2021 / 3:46 pm

    My little ones (who now have their OWN little ones) used to do this type of thing. Finally I’d ask where did you hear that? GRANDPA

  9. Tina
    August 4, 2021 / 2:17 pm

    A professional’s recommendation is to first scrape off the residue with a fork or something so that no chunks remain stuck to the dishes, and then pop them in the dishwasher.

    • August 6, 2021 / 2:32 pm

      Thanks Tina! This is what I do!

  10. Tapir
    August 4, 2021 / 12:11 pm

    My ex mother in law used to call my ex husband “son” all the time – never used his name. Would you like a cup of tea son? I’m going now son. Pass the salt son. Used to drive me mad!

  11. Juliet
    August 4, 2021 / 11:29 am

    I very much want this to happen with Mr.AMR. I would giggle like a loon.
    I’m a no rinser (except for eggs or cheese) as when I purchased the new dishwasher, I was instructed to not rinse.

  12. August 4, 2021 / 9:26 am

    I love your way with words, all those scenarios going around in your head :) I agree with Husband rinse first all that crap swishing around clogging up the filter yeuuk

    • August 4, 2021 / 9:56 am

      This is an issue that will divide people I think! : )

  13. Anja
    August 4, 2021 / 9:24 am

    Loved it! Pls pls do this with your husband! It would be hilarious And I completely agree with you on the dishwasher. If I Ringe it, I might as well wash it! So obviously I don’t Ringe

  14. Claire
    August 4, 2021 / 9:21 am

    Oh my, the way you described knowing Angelica by scents and curls and silhouettes had me weeping at the start of my work day. Damn you PMS! Wonderful writing, Ruth :)

  15. Catherine
    August 4, 2021 / 8:24 am

    My niece went through just such a phase with my nephew. ‘Brother’ said in a disconcertingly sepulchral voice. As though he were a monk. A serious one. Not a small boy.

  16. Miss Kitty
    August 4, 2021 / 4:21 am

    Your miller’s son impersonation made me LOL So cute the different stages kids go through.

    I agree with you slightly on the dishwashing front. My husband is the fussier one, he will literally scrub the dishes with a soap brush and hot water, and then stick them in the dishwasher! I ask him why? You have literally just washed it already! But I do like to give them a quick rinse under cold water, just to clean away any bigger food clumps. I had a plumber tell me once that the filters are the first things to pack up on a dishwasher, mostly when people stick plates with food still stuck to them into it. I figure if I can keep ours going a bit longer by doing a quick rinse, I will.

    On a much lesser note, I am very glad to hear you call them ‘kiwifruit’. So many people call them ‘kiwis’ and it does my head in, I come from NZ so ‘kiwis’ are either the birds or the people, but definitely not the fruit!

    • August 4, 2021 / 9:58 am

      Pat on the back for me! : )
      Interesting re plumber info, I shall take that on board!

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