Saturday, December 8, 2012

Past Deadline: Fratricide Averted

Here is the Dec. 6 edition of "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier.
Fratricide averted
The other day I phoned my mom and thanked her for not killing my brother and me when we were kids.
It’s not the first time I have said it. I don’t know how she did it.
Boychild, almost 11, and Girlchild, 7, have been fighting like the proverbial cats and dogs these days. They can’t seem to be in a room together for more than 14 seconds before some sort of ridiculous squabble erupts.
Often it is screen related. Someone is invariably watching something the other doesn’t want to watch. Or maybe they will agree to play a game together, and then start screaming about a) the choice of game or b) the particular strategy employed or c) the rules of the game, etc.
I have already had to set up a schedule about which days which kid gets to choose which game, and they know the next step is for the screen-related items to be declared off limits for both.
The frustrating thing is, I can relate. It is often the Way of Siblings to disagree about pretty much everything merely on principle.
When we were kids, my parents had to set up a schedule for my brother and me when it came to doing dishes. We started off doing them together, but when it devolved into arguments about who was doing what and who could inflict the most skin damage with a tea towel, we were soon segregated to doing them individually on alternating nights.
I was mean to my brother (sorry, Doug). I was four and a half years older than he, and for a long time I was bigger and thought I was smarter. The physical part of our sibling rivalry ended fairly quickly when he got bigger and started pushing back.
No problem. I always had the psychological warfare thing going on, so I just leaned a little more heavily on that. (Girls often excel at this.)
I think I have related the Darth Vader story, but here’s a recap to illustrate a point.
Picture it: Sicily, 1947. Wait…wrong rerun. Picture it: Perth, circa 1980. I am about 10, my brother is around five. Star Wars is popular. I hadn’t seen it, but knew who the good guys and bad guys were and that Princess Leia’s hair looked like earmuffs.
At the time our basement was only partially finished, and I was down there playing with my little brother. The furnace tended to make weird, gaspy, rumbly sounds, and I thought it would be fun to scare the bejeebers out of my brother by telling him it was Darth Vader. I told him to hide under a desk in the dark, then I crept upstairs and rolled on the floor laughing as he came screaming up the stairs, terrified, a few minutes later.
(Yes, he still speaks to me.)
It backfired. He claimed to be “afraid” to go downstairs for what seemed like years afterward, so basement-related errands had to be done by me. (Well played, little bro.)
Anyway, I remember this as I listen to the shrieking and clamour around me as Boychild and Girlchild navigate the world of sibling rivalry. I see the trickery and the power plays and the supposed “hatred,” and as much as I sometimes want to set up schedules so that they are never in the same room together for anything, ever, I know this is all part of a complex social something er other.
Besides, when I see things like Girlchild being sad about something that has happened at school and Boychild offering to go and “talk to the kid” or “keep an eye on things,” I know everything is going to be fine.

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