Thursday, May 8, 2014

#OnlyChildProblems

Tonight's cocktail is a Rosemary Mandarin Sparkle. Which I haven't yet made, but I will on Mother's Day because I deserve it.



I grew up an only child. No, I wasn't spoiled, though it was nice not having to share. Nor was I lonely, usually. I'm an introvert, so I was often just as happy to read or play alone, and it was the 80s, so if I wanted someone to play with, I just roamed the neighborhood. Most of my friends had siblings, of course, whom I helped to torment (if younger) or pester (if older). I was usually happy to go home and leave all that behind me at the end of the day.

Everything is a trade-off, but one of the key lessons I never learned by virtue of being an only child is what in the everloving hell is up with siblings. Tink and Tweak fight. All the time. Dreadful, screeching, name-calling, kicking, smacking, hair-pulling fighting. This morning, I actually had to say, to a human being, "Don't spit in your brother's mouth!" And it's over NOTHING. If there was a pile of wet leaves, or dog poop, or severed pigs' feet on the floor, they would fight over it. Once they fought over who was being nicer to me.


How can they think this is more pleasant than just letting each other be? There has always been some rivalry, what with Tweak being less than two years older than Tink, but it seems to be getting worse as they get older. And if I try to intervene in any way? They turn on me like rabid wolverines. Both at once. It's enough to make me want to lock them both outside the house until they figure out how to get along, or make a Get-Along Shirt.

Though how you get both kids in the shirt without someone getting hurt, I have no idea.
Usually I don't see what goes down before the screaming, so there's no way I'm doling out punishments for one kid and not the other, and even if I did, it takes two to fight. I'd rather they just got along, or at least avoided each other when they couldn't get along. But then I wonder whether, in the long run, they're learning how to deal with conflict in a way I never did, and maybe it's a good thing. I HATE conflict. It fills me with existential terror. My ex husband and I never fought, because I avoided conflict by not saying anything, so he generally got what he wanted, and I was always pissed off. It has taken a lot of work since then (and a dose of The Rage) to feel that I can safely speak my mind.

On the first night of Passover this year, I prepared a seder for me and the kids. I did not have it together enough to invite people over for a big to-do, but I made a nice meal. Then I had the temerity to ask the kids to set the table, which of course prompted them to fight like caged rats over who would do what, spending more time and energy than it would have to simply do what I'd asked. It had been that way all week. I could feel all my good feelings about making a Jewish home for my children leeching away in a stream of despair. I quietly rose from the table, locked myself in the bathroom, and sat on the floor trying to focus on my breathing. It was all I could do not to go completely bat shit and start breaking things, and I'll admit that I cried, but I kept it together. Barely. When I got myself together, Tweak was standing in the hallway looking like this:

"Oh, crap! We broke Mommy!"
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ValeriyLebedev
The boy even brought me his iTouch before I even told him I was taking it for the week. Tink took a bit more prodding.


Then we sat down and actually had a nice dinner. The kids apologized to each other, even, and seemed to mean it. Thankfully the ritual requires one to drink four cups of wine, so I had that going for me.

Now, I don't know jack about parenting, and in my experience, most parenting strategies seem to work only on other people's children. However, I do find that when I can pull my shizznit together and remain calm (which is not even a little bit easy for me), things tend to go better. So, after doing some reading, I've decided to embrace the sibling rivalry as an opportunity for my kids to learn how to resolve conflicts effectively. It's just going to take a lot of deep breaths. And patience. And a few cocktails. Maybe more than a few.


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