The Purple Ice Pack

This morning while packing the girls’ lunches, my younger daughter inquired, “How come Sophie gets the purple ice pack?” I answered, “Because your lunch bag is bigger and needs a bigger ice pack. The purple one is too small.” She still wanted the purple hockey puck of a freezer pack. And if she’d seen me putting the purple one in her bag, she would’ve asked, “How come Sophie gets the big white ice pack?” Can’t win.

Being a younger sister myself, I know what Ellie feels. “How come Nan…” was my mantra growing up. My illusions of being treated second best dominated my childhood. Although it trained me to be more aggressive, stand up for myself, and get my share, it did take its toll. My mother told me a story of going shopping with me back in Korea. I was two or three years old. When she picked up one pair of underwear or socks to purchase, I’d stare her down until she bought two, knowing full well the one was going to my older sister. The you’d-better-give-me-mine-woman look in my eyes made her pick up another pair. As a parent, I understand perfectly well why she would buy one pair rather than two. It has nothing to do with love. Looking back, I wish my mother hadn’t been so easily swayed by the emotional irrationality of a three-year-old. Did her compliance justify my feelings? Did it give me a taste for the kind of victory I’d seek for the rest of my childhood? I never really snapped out of my misperception until Ellie came along.

My mother also told me this story. A month before she was leaving Korea to come to live in America, her mother bought her younger sister a refrigerator. This broke her heart. She cried like a baby because she wanted a refrigerator, too. How come she gets one? How come I don’t get one? Her mother said, “What are you going to do with a refrigerator? Take it to America?” A refrigerator was a senseless gift a month before departure. Nevertheless, it broke my mother’s heart because it represented the care and attention she would miss out on by leaving the country. Years later, she was able to see the source of her sadness, but at the time, she wanted that frig.

When Sophie has her “How come Ellie…?” moments, I can reason her out of them. Ellie is getting a new pair of sneakers because her old ones don’t fit anymore. Your shoes still fit your feet just fine. When you grow out of yours, you’ll get a new pair. But Ellie is different. When she feels something, it’s reality. She won’t reason. I was just like that; I refused to be reasoned out of my feelings. So, do I give her the purple ice pack on Monday? As much as I want to end the grievance and simply give her what she wants, I’m troubled by the long term effect it may have on her. After all, the birth of her second child is a long way off.

The stare down.

Published in: on April 8, 2011 at 11:51 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh Patti…I so remember this about you. It also transpired to your firm belief that your mother loved Nan more than you. From all those Mondays with Mom posts, we all know that’s clearly not true. Perhaps, your having two daughters is karma, so you can undo, correct, and hope for better in your daughter, Ellie. But then again, you turned out just fine.

    • Yes, Young. You stand as my witness. How the tables have turned.

  2. God, that stare down scares me. I’d give in without a fight.

  3. I saw her at snack today, she was completely over it 🙂

    Hold steady, it will be worth it later – she will love you & her sister the more for it.

  4. Fascinating–Patti, your writing was on such a philosophical, nostalgic level that Cathy B’s comment about seeing Ellie _today_ felt like whiplash, snapping us back to the present. Oh yeah, we’re talking about today, not some childhood of yesteryear. Does that make sense?

    • Her comment woke me up from a bit of a spell, too. So, yes, makes perfect sense.

      One of my favorite compliments from a reader was: “I missed my stop because of you.”

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