When Maria was at her old school, she had a girlfriend named Belle. Belle and Maria met when they were infants together in the Infant Room and they moved from room to room together as they got older. Belle was always, from infant through preschool years, as tiny as a sprite. Maria, on the other hand, was always, from infant through preschool years, as thick and strong as a professional bodyguard. She protected Belle as if it was her full-time profession. If any kid approached Belle, they better be ready to let Maria know what they needed. Maria would make the call of whether the kid got what they needed or had to move on. And Belle was absolutely fine with this arrangement. If a kid picked on Belle, she knew Maria had her back and would either have strong words with the kid or toss the kid on his backside.
When Belle had a birthday party at age 3, Maria happily came over to her house. As we were watching them play, and we noticed Maria strong arming one of the kids so Belle could get a toy of her choice, Belle’s dad stated “That is Maria. She is “The Muscle.” At first, I was offended. All of these other little, tiny, frail children in the room with my strong, thick, athletic darling, and she gets called “The Muscle.” But after no time at all, I took it as a compliment. She protects; she comforts; she is loyal.
Maria has since left Belle and moved onto a new daycare where there is no “Belle” to protect. However, she has moved on to a closer blood line. Her brother. You could describe him as a little sprite, also. Or an “imp” as his grandma calls him. No matter how you describe him, he could definitely use some “Muscle” and luckily, Maria is willing to provide it.
When the daycare had a family fun night, they got a bouncy tent and the kids jumped in it five at a time. Maria and Mario waited patiently for their turn, and when they got in, three other kids a little older than Maria got in with them. One of the kids, a bigger boy, accidentally jumped into Mario as he lost his balance. Maria immediately swung up her arm and stopped him from knocking Mario over and then shouted at him “This is my brother! Get away!” She pulled Mario over to the corner of the tent so they could jump in peace.
When I went to pick up Maria and Mario this evening, Maria was outside on the playground with her class. They had just taken out bikes and scooters to ride around the playground. Mario ran outside after seeing this and started crying because he did not have a bike to ride. I explained to him that it was Maria’s class’ turn to ride bikes and that we could ride one when we got home. He had nothing to do with me and continued to sulk and cross his tiny arms. Maria watched all of this and I could see her observing with great intent all of the kids on bicycles on the playground. After about three minutes, Mario went over to the jungle gym and began climbing. Just then, Katherine got off her bike. You would have thought Maria had a firecracker in her pants. She darted over to that bike and jumped on it yelling “Mario, I got you a bike!” Mario squealed with joy. He began to jump on it when another little girl from Maria’s class, Sydney, tried to grab it. The Muscle was ready for this development, and pushed Sydney’s hand away firmly stating “No, Sydney, this is a bike for my brother.” Mario stayed in place waiting to see if he could take off. Maria then called out “Go, Mario, ride that bike!” and so he did. I caught wind of this whole scenario and told Maria that Sydney should get the bike because it was her class’ turn. Maria looked at me and convincingly stated “I gave my turn to Mario so he should be able to ride it.” When I finally made him dismantle, she was still protesting that he should be able to continue to ride it because “he is my brother and he wants to ride.” Loyal to the end.
Mario is a lucky sucker to have his “Muscle” around nearly all the time, and the Muscle has had an influence on him. Although he does not pack it the way Maria does, he is tiny and mighty. When I or my husband firmly tell Maria to do something or raise our voice at her, he darts in from the adjoining room, jabs us in the leg, and commands “That is my sister!” Maria is not only the Muscle but also seems to be the Teacher.