Saturday, May 8, 2010

Past Deadline: Surviving Sibling Warfare

Being a parent takes more patience than I actually have. It’s a bit of a problem, really, but not insurmountable. It just means that I’ll probably have to get wooden teeth before my time thanks to all the gritting.

I may have to get a new tongue from all the times I’ve had to bite it.

Possibly I’ll need a new brain because mine will have exploded.

Ah, well. You get the point.

One thing I won’t need is hearing aids. I figure as my eardrums are blasted into deafness from all the screeching I won’t really want to enhance my hearing. Instead I’ll drift into a silent oblivion as the house falls down around me and loud battles are waged with toy light sabres and, occasionally, fingernails.

Okay. I’m exaggerating. A little.

Let me just say the fact my eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter fight is not a shock to me. I grew up with a younger brother and bickering, squabbling and occasional nastiness were just part of the whole experience of growing up. The fighting was nicely balanced by all the times we played wonderfully together – which were usually when there was no one else around to play with.

Okay. I’m exaggerating. A little.

Really, though, my brother and I could get on famously when we wanted to. We played elaborate pretend games and marched around in swamps together building forts and investigating turtles, fish, frogs, snakes and the like.

The thing is, though, we were far more sensitive to slights against each other than we would have been with our friends. One wrong look or move or action could spiral quickly into World War III. There would be stomping and fury and even occasionally some assault causing bodily harm. That stopped the day I realized little brother wasn’t so little anymore, and he put me in my place. (From then on I had to resort to inflicting mental anguish. Girls are good at that.)

So, despite the fact I am not surprised to see my own Boychild and Girlchild engaging in sibling warfare, I have to admit it is a bit hard to take. At this point I should probably thank my mother and father for not giving us up for adoption or sending us off to Siberia because sometimes I wonder how they ever put up with it.

The thing is, for all the other frustrating stages of child development you can usually see an end to it, including such exciting times as diapers, potty training, spitting up, late-night feedings, pushing strollers through deep, heavy snow, and so on. With sibling squabbling, though, there’s a good chance it will carry on for years. And years. And years. Hopefully as they get older the times when they get along famously will increase in proportion, but right now there are days that it’s about 50/50 with our little dears.

In the meantime, we do what we can to curb the nastiness. Of course we try to enforce the “hands to yourself” rule, which is most effective when the people involved are within sight, but pretty much useless when they are not. Perhaps the following sounds familiar to those of you who grew up with a sibling or who are parents to some:

Child A: “Squabble! Bicker bicker bicker! Yell! Holler!”

Child B: “Yadda yadda yadda! Shout! Blah blah blah!”


Child A: “SHRIEK! Maaaaaaaaawm! Blank hit me!”

Child B: “Yeah, well she yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah!”

Parent: Mutter mutter mutter. “Both of you! Go to your rooms!” (Checks distance to Siberia on Google Maps.)


At these times, as I grit my teeth, bite my tongue and try to keep my head from popping off my shoulders (sometimes several times a day), I try to look at it from a different perspective: nostalgia. The “ah, this reminds me of the good old days when I was a kid at home” isn’t really doing it for me, though.

Maybe that’s why women in their late 30s suddenly take up running. Oh, we say it’s to lose weight, get fit and to avoid having to drive in town during construction season, but that’s malarkey. I really think it’s to keep our heads from exploding.

So far so good.

Published in The Perth Courier, May 6/10


Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

You aren't alone. I hear this book "Siblings Without Rivalry" is really good. I might get it. I have some tricks up my sleeve, also. I might post about it and get opinions. I'll share. (You're doing better than you think. Me, too, probably, but I find it easier to compliment someone else.)

mamabear said...

Happy Mother's Day! Is it the same day in Canada?

Betsy said...

Yes, Running is a quiet sport. And parenting is not. My 8 year old and 4 year old are honing their sibling rivalry skills on a daily basis now. Worse yet, they are doing it in French, which often makes me laugh because it is just so bizarre and, as you may know, laughing is not helpful. Sigh.
I try to limit the teasing, because that, as I remember is the most hurtful and it can be done in such a passive aggressive way, it is easily overlooked. Sigh.
Anyways, I can relate.

Steph said...

@ Andrea - I'd sure like to see that post!
@ Mamabear - thanks! You too!
@ Betsy - running (I've only been at it since July) is saving my sanity! I continue to admire your perseverance in a whole new country with a whole new language. What an amazing and challenging experience!