My girls – Jenny and Becky – are 6 years apart, with Jenny being the oldest. When we first brought Becky home from the hospital, Jenny was overjoyed and totally enthralled with her beautiful baby sister. She would sit and watch her, beg to hold her and feed her. In fact, when company came to the house, Jenny was quick to show everyone her most prized possession – her baby sister, Becky.
That all changed when Jenny realized that baby Becky was growing up and wanting to play with her things – and the worst thing yet – that Becky would be sharing a room with her! Up to that point, Princess Jenny was willing to suffer through just about anything – but to give up her sanctuary, her castle, her special place – that was NOT acceptable. Something must be done about this interloper, this pretender to her Princess throne! Unfortunately for Jenny – Princess Becky was not only going to resist the attempt to oust her from her rightful throne – but she was going to engage in a counter-offensive attack. The War of the Royal Gurnett Princesses was ON!
There were minor skirmishes over the next few years – toys hidden from one another, diaries read and shared at inappropriate moments with various people (like their brothers and their friends), jewelry worn without permission and other petty incidents. These were just practices for the final series of battles which occurred when Jenny was 15 and Becky was 9.
The girls slept in bunk beds with Becky on the top bunk and Jenny on the bottom. Becky tended to snore lightly in her sleep and sometimes openly mumble. Jenny decided that this was not going to be allowed any longer because, after all, she – Princess Jenny was a delicate creature who was unable to get her beauty sleep with all that noise! Jenny’s solution was to kick the upper bunk every time Becky made even the slightest noise. Kicking is probably too tame a description of what happened – Becky’s mattress would actually be lifted a good six inches from the frame of the bed and dropped violently – not only waking Becky but bouncing her around her small bed and inevitably causing a small panic due to being awakened so rudely. When confronted about this behavior and its inappropriateness, Jenny explained that she was just trying to get Becky to turn over. Of course, it was irrelevant that this method would cause her to not only turn over but to actually flip out of her bed! Jenny was ordered to let her sister sleep but as is the case with most teenagers, our orders were completely ignored.
This cycle was repeated many times over the next few weeks – Jenny keeping Becky up all night, both of them being crabby the next day, irritated (and also sleep deprived) parents yelling at Jenny and then the pattern repeated itself. What happened next, I attribute to revenge and sleep deprivation.
Becky became abnormally resigned to her fate concerning the sleeping arrangement and managed to take naps whenever Jenny was not around. She would go to their room and sleep at odd times. At the same time, Jenny was getting more involved in high school and seemed to care less about what happened with her room – other than in the middle night.
One day, there was a wild maniacal scream issued from the Princesses’ bedroom – and it wasn’t from Becky. Jenny was crying hysterically and pointing to her band jacket, which she had paid for herself with babysitting money. I didn’t understand the problem until Jenny put the jacket on and you could see long slashes in the coat everywhere – the arms, the back, around the pockets and in the front – someone had intentionally destroyed the $100 jacket and taken time to make sure it was something that could not be repaired.
That someone, of course – was Becky. She did not lie about it and even seemed quite proud of her accomplishment. She had decided that Jenny had too much stuff and deserved to be punished for everything she had inflicted upon Becky in the last few weeks. So, one afternoon, during her “nap time”, she decided that she would destroy something of Jenny’s that wasn’t used very often and then sit back and wait for the explosion! She even showed me where she had hidden the scissors she used to inflict the damage. She stood her ground and made it clear that this wasn’t her fault – if Jenny had only left her alone and let her sleep – and didn’t have so much stuff in their room – things would not have had to come to this conclusion!
The next day, the boys were moved to the basement room, Jenny took over their room and Becky kept the smaller room. There was a very tentative truce, much like that shared by North and South Korea. It didn’t stop all of the raids and battles – even after locks were put on each of the doors, but there was an uneasy peace between the two girls.
Becky spent the summer working off the cost of the jacket by doing extra chores – but she did it with a smile on her face and a song in her heart, because she now was able to sleep at night without interruption – and also had a private place to plan her next attack on anyone who might try to dethrone her!