I have a fabulous guest blogger today. Her name is Jamie, and she blogs at ohbecareful.com. If you don’t already read her blog, you simply must. She is a talented writer, a wife to one and a mother of two. Her color of choice is wine red. And the best thing about summer, in her opinion, is that her favorite fruits and vegetables are in season: “romaine lettuce, zucchini, strawberries, raspberries… mmm.” She apologized for the length of this post, but I am much more inclined to tell you to REVEL in it, because I rarely write more than two incoherent sentences or post some silly photo. So thanks, Jamie, and readers–enjoy!
My kids get along remarkably well considering the gap in their ages: my son is six, my daughter nearly two. Em adores her big brother, and Calvin has been equally smitten since the first time he held his sister when she was a scant nine pound bundle, newly born and rosy pink. They spend hours every day playing peacefully together, and I count it a blessing that their love for one another runs deep.
But they’re kids. They’re human. And despite their strong bond, they do have their petty squabbles.
Some days are more wearying than others, because I find myself repeating the same admonitions over and over again, ad nauseam. Be gentle. Don’t grab. No hitting. No biting your brother. No tackling your sister. No screaming. No choke holds. Be gentle. Don’t grab…
When you’ve given the same brief lectures dozens of times in the past week alone, and know that the darlings on the receiving end of your warnings will likely need to hear them 34,324 more times before they even begin to sink in, you lose the will to live say them.
Days begin to feel like an endless loop of programmed responses to minor sibling quarrels, with little or no variety; I sometimes think that the kids play out their various spats with such predictable sameness that a robot could take my place and do the scolding for me. And frankly, having a robot nanny to intervene when my children are busy aggravating one another and my patience is worn thin doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
In one recent episode of sibling rivalry, I came into the living room to find the kids a tangle of thrashing limbs; no one was squealing or crying out — they were simply engaged in a silent scuffle. They love to play-wrestle, so this is a fairly common sight in our house and not automatically cause for alarm. But sometimes wrestling is their preferred method of conflict resolution, too.
Em frequently lays claim to things that aren’t hers, sometimes innocently picking up a worthless trinket that her brother cast aside five minutes earlier (that only becomes the crowning jewel of all his earthly treasures and his only reason for drawing breath the moment she picked it up), or obtaining something from him by brute force. Once in possession, she wraps her fingers around it in a tenacious grip, her face set with determination, quietly declaring it Hers and defying anyone to challenge her claim. The moment Calvin spots her with said worthless trinket, she runs for all she is worth, her sober expression breaking into a gleeful laugh as she darts hither and yon through the house, a magical pixie keeping just out the reach of her pursuer.
When her brother does eventually catch up with her, a battle — not only of physical endurance, but of wills — ensues. She, determined to keep what she has found and dubbed “mine [forever]”; he, determined not to let his younger sister get the better of him or to keep what is rightfully his. Neither one of them is interested in appealing The Court of Maternal Justice when they can just duke it out instead.
This time, it appeared that Calvin was trying to wrench something from Em’s unyielding grasp, her little knuckles clenched in defiance.
“Typical,” I thought, sighing to myself, sure that mediation was going to require me to recite one of my oft-delivered speeches after prying the two apart.
“Okay, what’s going on, Calvin?” I demanded sternly as I marched across the room, “Does your sister have something?”
He glanced at me briefly (the only indication that he heard me) but didn’t answer; their hands remained locked in combat. I repeated my question in my best no-nonsense tone as I neared the kerfuffle. “She doesn’t have anything,” he responded quickly, but without turning his attention from his pint-sized opponent. I was close enough then to see that he was right.
“Well,” I asked, exasperated, “What are you doing?”
“I’m pretending that our hands are stuck together with glue,” he said simply, as though this was a perfectly ordinary thing to do.
Oh. Of course.
I’m pretty sure if I had my fantasy nanny robot, it wouldn’t have been good for much right then; instead of separating the kids and efficiently setting them straight, it would have been verbalizing a robotic error message in a monotone computerized voice: “Does – not – com – pute. Does – not – com – pute.”
Still, I can’t help but wonder how many times in coming weeks I will have to say “I know that you’re pretending that your hands are bonded by a layer of invisible super glue, but that doesn’t mean you can sit on your sister to her to keep her from running away.”
I hope not many.