My poor first-born is losing her hair. Not through any awful disease, but through the clutches of her evil little sister. My chest looks like a tigers’ coat, I’m covered in little scratches and pinch marks. We are the victims in a campaign of abuse….from our 11-month old baby….

Mornings in our house go like this: Girly No2, at 11 months old, is the first to wake up, some time between 5.30 and 7am. She comes into our bed, one of us crawls down the stairs and makes her a bottle, relishing in the 5 minutes peace her guzzling brings. She then thrashes, butts and crawls all over us while we both wake up. At some point, our 3-year-old, Girly No1, will bound in, laden with teddies and Frozen dolls. She climbs into our bed and has her milk and we all wake up chatting about our day ahead. Picture perfect family life.

The Campaign

Except the picture fails to acknowledge what is really going on. Because at some point during this idyllic hour, my Girly No2 will attack her big sister, grabbing at her head with her little fat fists, pulling clumps of beautiful hair from her beautiful head. It’s awful. No1 shouts, cries and whimpers, holding her poor little head. My innocent-looking cherub, with her big eyes and pouty lips, retreats with a handful of long blonde curly strands twined around her fingers, the hint of a smile on her lips. It’s like the aftermath of a drunken brawl in Wetherspoons. The victor, No2, sits back to watch the reaction. She is unperturbed by my telling off, sometimes shouting back at me, other times looking at me with the facial expression of a sullen teenager. She will briefly go quiet, plotting her next move. Some time later she will dive at my chest, head butting with her mouth open making a “waw waw waw” noise against my skin – like the Native American noise we used to make as children with our hands on our mouths. Sometimes she’ll catch my cheekbone with her lump of a head, or she’ll squash my boob until it’s completely flat, a move that makes me think a mammogram will be perfectly manageable for me. Yesterday morning she bit me on the tummy. It’s surprising how much three tiny little teeth can hurt. Most days though, it’s her signature move she pulls; she sits next to me, eyeing my chest, then – when she is ready – she’ll swiftly lean forward and pinch me, scratching me with her tiny fingernails. She purposefully draws lines, beaming with pride at the red mark-making she leaves behind. She’s mean. And she hurts.

No

With both girls, we have tried to avoid shouting “no” and instead use expressions like “we don’t do that in this house, we don’t hurt our big sisters” in a stern voice. It worked well with No1, she didn’t learn the word “no” for ages. You very quickly learn as a parent that your children parrot back the words you use all the time. It’s better hearing her tell another child that “we don’t throw balls inside, we might break the window” rather than listening to her shouting “no” at them and a row breaking out. It also allows for a conversation beyond shouting. With this second little minx though, explanations aren’t working. She is too young. She doesn’t understand. More significantly though, she doesn’t care. I have lost it once or twice and shouted “NO!” at her. The first time the saddest thing happened…the lip came out and she cried, big dollopy tears streaming down her cheeks. It didn’t change anything though, and the next time I did it she just shouted back at me. Exactly what I was trying to avoid. My cousin, mother of 7, said do it back – a swift tug of the hair will stop it. I have tried this, she just stared at me. Maybe I didn’t do it hard enough.

BABIES THAT HURT

Me? Hurt you? As if! Look at me!

Candy Stripes Can Work

I think I’m out of options. I just have to keep them apart and be ‘on it’ all the time. The second No2 eyes No1’s hair and starts to raise her chubby fist I move her out of reaching distance. With my chest I do my best to move her hand away and now it’s winter I wear much higher tops. But we still have lots of attacks. I try and keep her fingernails short but, quite frankly, it’s like wresting a really strong worm. Her nails are so small and she moves so much it is my least favourite activity. I would rather sport the candy-stripe skin. For her sisters hair though, there is little more I can do other than hope she grows out of it soon.

The whole hurting situation rises again later in the day. As everyone starts to get tired and hungry, it is Girly No1’s turn to inflict pain. Every iota of attention paid to No2 results in a jump on my head or a deep thigh massage with her bony little feet. My cheekbones and boobs are again the inevitable victims of these jellybob attacks (translator: jealous; we try not to use the word jealous). No2 often takes an “accidental” kick to the head or may be pushed face-down into the rug. These incidents are easier to deal with – naughty steps, removal of toys etc. In a recent stay with Nana, they were separated for hours. Literally were not allowed within a 2m radius of one another. This certainly helps No1, but No2 doesn’t care! She makes it her mission to climb onto No1’s lap. This makes No1 panic and she gets sad that she can’t be near her baby sister. These discipline methods work. With No2 though, I fear that life will be very different. She is missing the caring gene. Sister Auntie is exactly the same. I had hoped this inclination could be over-ridden but 11 months in, I am not hopeful. It is war, and I, the innocent bystander, come off the worst.

Padding

Many a time, in my child-free years, I saw an angry looking mum being snippy with her children. Poor babies, I would think, hateful mother. I hadn’t accounted for the headbutts, kicks and scratches she would have endured that day. Not to mention the level of alert she would have to be on, awaiting the break out of war between her two or more children. Then placating one whilst shouting at the other one in a way that won’t sound horrendous coming out of a toddler’s mouth at a later date. It’s exhausting. And painful. I had heard motherhood was painful. After birth I thought they meant emotionally, not actual physical pain! I do not like it! I have no answers on this one, dear readers. Short of total fingernail removal, obligatory swimming hats to hide hair and Wacky Warehouse inspired interior design….I’m out. All advice welcome on how to manage a naturally aggressive and very resilient 11-month old attacking her family. And then more generally on warring sisters. I knew they would fight later but they’re so young! Do they really want to inflict pain on the other one?! I cannot cope with this for the next 16 years. Until you tell me what to do, we shall be donning puffer jackets and ski helmets. All of us. Please help me, it’s hot in here.

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R is for Hoppit