You Can Count On Your Big Sister


I think I see leadership potential in one of my kids.

“Okay,” Miss7 said to her two little sisters, “you need to do two things and then we’re done.”

“Yay!” yelled Miss4 and Miss2 clapped.

“You,” she said, pointing to Miss4, “pick up the pillows, make the beds and put the dirty clothes in a pile. and you,” she said, pointing to Miss2, “put the dolls in the box, the stuffed toys on the bed and stack all the books together. Do this properly and I’ll let you play with my makeup.”

Miss7 was giving these instructions from the doorway, which she’d blocked off to prevent escape. I recognized the tactic immediately because I’d stood in the doorway between the kitchen and lounge room only five minutes earlier issuing instructions.

“Okay,” I announced. No one even budged. I tried again. “Okay,” I repeated louder and this time someone almost glanced at me. “I’ve got a couple of things for you guys to do. Time to stop playing and clean this mess up.”

There were toys and books and clothes strewn across the room.

Mary Poppins would have got them all moving with a rendition of A Spoonful of Sugar, but I settled for something a little less whimsical.

“Either I can see what colour the carpet is in this room in five minutes or I’ll ban electronics for the rest of the weekend.”

“It’s blue,” Master9 assured me.

“Four minutes and fifty seconds. Four minutes and thirty because you made that smart-ass remark.”

This got things moving. Especially after I turned the Xbox off at the wall.

Four minutes and thirty seconds later I was back. The room was almost tidy and Master9 and Miss10 were standing in front of the telly clutching the hand controllers and looking hopeful.

I found the other three is their bedroom, still cleaning.

“Make the bed properly,” Miss7 instructed Miss4. “Put the pillow up the other end.”

“Do you think this is fair?” I asked her. “You standing here and them doing all the work? There’s a lot to do in there.”

“But I moved most of the stuff from the lounge room to here, so this is fair,” she told me. “And all they have to do is two things each and we’re done.”

“That’s right, Daddy,” said Miss4 as she pulled and yanked her big sister’s blanket into place. “Just two more things.”

Even though I work in a bank I’ve never claimed to be especially good at maths, but anything I can add up on two hands I can usually manage.

“But you’ve already given them three things each to do,” I told her. “and after that the shoes have to be picked up, the Lego put away and-.”

Suddenly there was a seven year old’s hand over my mouth and Miss7 was  looking pointedly into my eyes.

“That’s okay,” Miss7 whispered to me. “They don’t really know numbers.”

Leadership: it’s all about knowing your staff.

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“Raising a family on little more than laughs.”


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