It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Do We Have Empathy? Not so you’d notice…

We are getting ready to go out. In the seething mass that is my front hall, Malli steps backwards, inadvertently sending Anna teetering onto her well-padded bottom. Anna sets up a roar. Malli pats her head, gives her a hug and a kiss.

“I’m sorry, baby. It okay.”

Much praise for Malli, who, with two rather rambunctious older brothers and herself the much-coddled baby of the family, has never been one to dole out the tenderness. People are supposed to give it to HER, thankyouverymuch. We’ve been working on this, talking up and encouraging the idea that now that she’s the Big Girl, part of her job is to be kind to the little ones. I’m delighted by this evidence of blossoming compassion.

Later that day, Anna again sets to wailing, not quite sure why this time. Once again Malli doles out the hugs and kisses. So sweet.

After naptime Anna is wailing again. My, her cold must be getting her down. She’s not normally so fussy. Malli swoops in to comfort and soothe, looking to me to admire her Big-Girl-ness.

Twenty minutes later, more wailing. More soothing.


She’s quick and smart, but I’m old and wise. While I’m ostensibly looking elsewhere, a lightning-fast finger reaches out and gives poor wee Anna a sharp poke in her fat little tummy. When I turn to ‘see’, Malli has Anna enveloped in a gentle carress, her angelic face turned up to smile at me as she murmurs comfort. “Is okay, baby Anna, is okay.”

Yes, well. Back to the drawing board…

March 23, 2007 - Posted by | aggression, socializing


  1. And how does little Anna feel about this? Betcha she’s got to be pretty confused.

    Comment by Haley | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  2. Oh, by now poor little Anna must be convinced Malli is psychotic…

    Comment by MaryP | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  3. clever girl, that malli. eventually anna will learn from the dark wisdom of her tormentor. 😛

    Comment by lara | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  4. Oooh, that’s wicked! Pumpkinpie has been known to deliver a smack, followed immediately by a kiss and hug and sorry, too. She’s received a few lectures now on how sorry is not all we expect. She also needs to know that it is not nice and not okay and she should not do it again or there will be some consequence, because she is quite old enough to get that now. They are so tricky, those toddler types!

    Comment by kittenpie | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  5. Clever, naughty little Malli. Much more clever Mary.

    Comment by Lady M | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  6. I totally used to do this to my little sister.

    But I was SIX.

    Comment by Heath | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  7. My least favorite thing.. that saccarine gaze of aren’t I a good girl? Drives me crazy.. and tag your it.

    Comment by mo-wo | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  8. I certainly know at least one of my sisters who is prone to this type of maniacal pestering! And, of course, it’s one who strikes you as the loving sweetheart most of the time, not the loud attention-seeker or the withdrawn, brooding one!

    Comment by Knotwurth Mentioning | March 23, 2007 | Reply

  9. Munchkin Syndrome by Prodding?

    Comment by Kat | March 24, 2007 | Reply

  10. Lara: Um, “wisdom” is not how I’d classify this particular pattern. “Sociopath” springs to mind…

    Kittenpie: Malli received the first of those lectures today. It will be a gradual process, because she’s incredibly spoiled. Has never had to consider anyone’s needs or feelings besides her own. We’ve had our moments, Malli and I, and she’s learned that I am a force to be reckoned with – but that’s in her own best interests. Learning to do something that’s for nothing other than making someone else feel nice? It’s a ways away… But I believe (this would be the optimist in me speaking) that she’s a loving child at heart, in whom the concepts of empathy and kindness will flourish once they’ve been (firmly and implacably) planted!

    LadyM: “Much more clever Mary”? This post doesn’t describe that bit. It’s yet to come. The quest to teach Malli about the satisfaction of being kind and the right of others to the security of their person has only just begun.

    Heath: Malli is a smart one. Also spoiled. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled.

    Mo-wo: Aren’t I a good little sociopath? Completely conscience-free that girl, just yet. Anna exists only as a means by which Malli receives the praise she craves. But she craves it, which gives me the necessary leverage!! Onwards…

    Knotwurth: Welcome to the comment box!

    Interesting, the perceptions. From my own experience, I’d share your perception of two of them. The third? “Withdrawn and brooding”? Her, I’d call the cheerful, independent one. (Although Ms. Cheerful/Brooder does the maniacal pestering thing amazingly well with the Laughing Boy. It’s reciprocal between those two, of course.)

    Similarly, the maniacal pestering with the loving sweetheart girl? You bring that out in her, my dear. Hardly see it when you’re not around, at least not in this house. Heh.

    Kat: LMAO. Very clever! I’ll prod her, the little wretch…

    Comment by MaryP | March 24, 2007 | Reply

  11. Uh oh! I can see the gleam in her eye just before poking Anna.

    Comment by mamacita tina | March 24, 2007 | Reply

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