I’d been walking around the museum on my own, enjoying a rare day to myself and a chance to do something I wanted without consulting anyone else for a change. After a few hours, I decided to visit the café to rest my feet and have a quick bite to eat before I continued on my exploration of the museum. I sat at a table on the left side of the room and sat back with my feet on the empty chair across from me.
As I sat, I watched a girl with her mother and three brothers. The mother looked tired and focused mostly on the baby boy drinking a bottle in her arms. The little girl, not more than 5 or 6 years old herself, was responsible for watching the toddler, who looked about 2 or 3. She kept track of him, keeping him near her at all times, trying to keep him entertained while their mother fed the baby. The little girl’s job was not being made easier by her older brother, who seemed to think grabbing things out of her hand was the best game ever. She had a bag of crackers that she was doling out to the toddler — her older brother grabbed the bag and ran off. The girl waited, just watching him without any outward reaction, so he lost interest and tossed the bag over to her. The same scene played out again with her own snack, him pulling it out of her hand, getting bored when she didn’t yell or cry, and throwing it back.
I looked to see if the mother would step in at any point, but she was leaning back against the back of her chair, her eyes closed as she fed her youngest, obviously trying to get just a minute’s peace while she did so.
I watched a bit longer as I ate, and as the oldest continued to taunt the girl and just generally get in her way. She pulled a juice box out for the toddler and had just put in the straw when the older boy grabbed it and again ran off, spilling a small amount of juice on the floor as he did so. Again, she did nothing. This time he demanded a reaction, running around her in smaller and smaller circles until I was afraid he’d crash into her. I watched breathlessly as his feet hit the spilled juice and flew out from under him. He landed flat on his back, juice box still in his hand, and lay there looking stunned and unsure of whether to cry or not. The mother didn’t even look up, so he didn’t bother to cry. Clearly, he wasn’t actually all that hurt, just surprised to suddenly be looking at the ceiling instead of his sister and brother.
Without a word, the little girl walked up to her older brother, put one foot on his chest to pin him down, plucked the juice box from his hands and gave it to the toddler. As she turned away, only I saw the small triumphant smile play across her face.