“Did you ever notice that Rosie won’t ever choose anything?” Joseph asked his mom and dad as he shot an accusatory glare at his little sister. When he was certain his parents weren’t looking in his direction, he punctuated his allegation by sticking out his tongue at her.
“I do, too!” Rosie retorted. Her blue eyes flashed dangerously, and her plump cheeks bloomed a bright pink as she mirrored his scowl.
“Name one time,” the boy taunted, clearly enjoying himself. “You can’t, because you never decide anything. I’ll bet you can’t even figure out what you want for your birthday, or what’s your favorite color, let alone what you want for dinner.”
“I do so choose stuff! All the time!” she countered, her voice dripping with frustration. “You shut up! You’re not the boss of me!”
“Children! Oh my God, stop it before my head pops off,” their mom moaned from the kitchen island behind them. “Joseph, leave your sister alone.”
Victorious, the little girl returned her sibling’s mocking tongue salute.
“Rosie!” Her father’s voice cracked like a whip. “Knock it off.”
The kindergartener pouted at being reprimanded by her father, thrusting her lower lip forward and folding her little arms defiantly. When this failed to earn her any sympathy, she slid off the wooden chair and stomped out of the kitchen to sulk privately. Her brother silently followed a moment later with the intention of rekindling their argument out of earshot of his parents.
Joseph found his little sister huddled in a corner of her room, hugging her favorite stuffed toy fiercely. When he saw that she was crying, though, all thoughts of additional teasing flew from his mind. “Hey, don’t cry. I’m sorry,” he offered, flopping down on the beige carpeting beside her. “Why are you so sad? Because Dad yelled?”
“No,” she sniffed and wiped her nose on a pink sleeve. “It’s just that I’m too scared to choose things.” She lifted her head a little and looked at him earnestly. “What if I don’t do it right?”
“You mean, what if you miss out on something because you made the wrong choice?” he asked, puzzled.
“Um hmm.” She nodded and returned her gaze to her heart-covered bear. “What if my tummy really wanted pizza and I gave it hot dogs? Or what if I hurt yellow’s feelings by making blue my favorite color?”
“Well, colors don’t have feelings, so I think you’re okay there,” he offered with a gentle smile, lifting her chin so that she could see his expression. “But what’s wrong with picking one thing for one day, and then having the other thing another day? That way, you get to have both, just not at the same time.”
“But what if I pick the wrong day?” She blinked, and another tear followed the damp path left by its predecessors.
Joseph’s grin widened. “Well then, you just choose to make it the right day instead.”
Confusion clouded the little girl’s face. “How do I do that?”
“You get up in the morning and tell yourself that everything you choose today is the perfect thing for today. You trust yourself. And if you do make a mistake, it’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes. Even Mom.”
Their mom’s voice calling from the kitchen made both children jump. “It’s awfully quiet up there. You two didn’t kill each other, did you?”
“No, Mom,” they answered in unison, giggling.
“Did you decide what you want for dinner?” she asked.
Rosie wiped her eyes with her other sleeve, and smiled warmly at her big brother. “Yes, mama,” she called. “We want… Cake!” At that, both children spontaneously dissolved into a fit of laughter.
In the kitchen, the woman rolled her eyes, fixed her husband with a rueful glance, and sighed, “They are definitely your children.”