If you know Quinlan, you know that she is, well, a character. She is smiley, and affectionate, and has no problem covering you with kisses if she feels that you are worthy of them. You know that she skips and jumps and twirls instead of walks, that she loves to draw and imagine and ask questions that make a person’s head spin. She has the loudest cry of any of our children, maybe of any child–if she is hurt, you will know–and will not hesitate to speak her mind if she feels she needs to. She insists on being heard. She is our family’s biggest protector, our biggest bodyguard. She just turned six, and seems to be growing straight up instead of out, like a piece of taffy being pulled from both ends. She doesn’t look intimidating. If I looked like her when I was young (which I did) I sure as hell would not have the gumption and strength that this girl does (because I didn’t).
This school year was tough on her big sister. Saoirse became a part of a group of some of the strongest personalities in her grade, which resulted in a good dose of drama and mean girlishness that we hadn’t expected to worry about until our kids were middle school aged. I think SK was in the mix a good deal herself for a while there (it was a long year of heart-to-hearts with her and discussions with her teacher), but by the end of the year she seemed to be almost wholly on the receiving end of it, to the point of one week being surrounded by friends, and the next, finding herself at the end of a cafeteria table, eating her lunch alone (I didn’t know about this until I popped in one day I was volunteering to say hi, then maybe sort of cried once I found out). But that’s a story for another time. Today, this story is about her sister.
A few years ago, I told you the story of Quinlan sticking up for her big sister at our community pool. You can read about it here, but know that some things just do not change (I’m laughing as I type that, because. Oh, just you wait!).
Saoirse, at the very end of the year, was having trouble with one girl who was new to me. It was all very sudden, and Saoirse would come home to tell me that she was scared of this girl, was afraid to stand up to her. Again, this was a classmate who simply had a really strong personality, could gather people around her, and she intimidated the hell out of SK when she was mean to her. This went on for a couple of days, and I was contemplating touching base with her mom when Saoirse came home and told me that the girl apologized to her. I was shocked.
“She apologized to you?” I remember asking. “What did she say?”
Saoirse smiled. “She just said that she didn’t know that she was being mean to me, and she said that she was sorry.”
I still didn’t get it. I remember being terrified by “mean girls” in school. I do not remember ever having one of them apologize for it. “But if she didn’t think she was being mean, how did she know that she was?”
I saw Saoirse glance at her sister and smile, just a little. “She said that Quinlan told her to stop.”
Okay. Let me just lay this out for you. The girls go to a school that houses grades preschool through eight. The younger kids are completely intimidated by the big ones, and if you ever stand in the hallway and watch the kindergarten classes walk beside the higher grades, you can see why. They look huge, act huge, in comparison. Apparently my youngest daughter, my string bean, wild-haired, timid second-born child was in the hallway one day when she saw the second graders move through. Quinlan walked up to the girl–the class alpha, mind you–put her little freckled face up to the bigger one, and said: “You’re being mean to my SISTER.” And that was that. The girl walked up to Saoirse two minutes later and apologized for how she’d treated her.