When I was sitting here writing this, my daughter had stripped herself naked from the waist down and was on her hands and knees, barking at me like a dog. My son was crab-walking all around the living room floor, making weird “crab-underwater” noises in a strange half-snuffly voice thanks to his cold. And that was an improvement in the morning – and it wasn’t even 9:00 am. Only thirty short minutes prior to that, my son was stomping with all his might up the stairs to his room where he had been banished, mumbling (none-too-quietly) that Mommy is stupid.
My daughter meanwhile, was downstairs in the kitchen triumphantly holding the drumsticks that she hadn’t wanted to share, one of which my son had decided to hit her over the head with when he had finally managed to wrestle it out of her grasp, after he had asked nicely to share, and she had refused. All of this after they had already argued over the Leapster, the “best” spot on the couch, the pillow… you get the idea.
I know in my head that I’m not the only parent that has “those” mornings – but in the heat of the moment, it sure can feel like it. Instead of gingerbread and sugar plums, visions of well-behaved children that always use their manners, always share, never fight or call each other names, dance through my head. I know, I can just feel it in my bones, that every other child out there must be better behaved than mine!
I think it’s safe to say we have hit the sibling rivalry phase in our parenting journey. Somehow mine and my husband’s genes merged to create two driven, determined, stubborn and competitive children. While Thomas is definitely the more passive of the two, and Ashley is far more aggressive, both have wills of iron – and both inherited my quick temper. If one wants it, the other wants it, and they’re both going to get it first. Even a simple request like, “Thomas could you turn off the tv please?” turns into a free-for-all where both children are racing to turn the tv off first, with my daughter shrieking when she “loses”.
When Child A sees Child B with a toy, having fun, it’s almost like a magical magnetism happens. Child A thinks, “Oh, that looks like fun. I should do it, too,” and then is magnetically drawn over to join in, wanted or not (read: uses brute force). In this case Child A is normally Ashley, but can be Thomas as well. We all know how those scenarios end.
We discipline, we talk about sharing, playing nicely, asking before just taking something, and we make it a point to give each child one on one time. We even make sure that each child has their own special toys that do not have to be shared, as all children need to have their own special things. Yet they still fight and argue with each other, sometimes to the point that I’m tempted to stick them at the end of the driveway with a sign on them that says, “Buy one, get one free!”
And yet, as much as they fight, they also adore each other. Ashley is often declaring that, “Tommy my best friend,” and when I see the two of them giggling together as they play hide n seek, or they’re cuddling together on the couch, or Thomas is taking the time to teach Ashley something, my heart just melts. And, in all reality, normally (at least 51% of the day), they do share together nicely. So, I know we’re doing something right.
But then these horrible mornings come along where the children wake up destined to tease and torment and annoy each other, to not share, to argue, to cry, to steal toys and swat each other. And those old mother-doubts that we all have come rushing in to sit on my shoulder like those old devils you see in cartoons, whispering, “You’re not doing a good enough job!” And I’m tempted to listen. I’m tempted to second-guess where we’re going wrong, what more we need to be doing.
But before I can go online to order every parenting book on the market, here comes Ashley, meek as a lamb. She pauses beside my chair as I’m typing this column and says, “I sorry Mommy. I sorry I not share with Thomas,” and she turns and hands Thomas the revered drum stick. And as the two of them go off to play together side by side, I flick that little doubt off my shoulder. It might be slow going at times, but they’re learning. I am doing a good job.