Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Motherhood and More: Guiding siblings to friendship*

When I was younger and thought about having multiple children, I pictured them as the best of friends. They would play ball or dolls together, or maybe build intricate Lego houses complete with stairs and rooftop gardens. They would always talk kindly to each other and think of ways to make the other one’s day better.

Reality, of course, rarely follows that sort of idealistic daydream. It’s usually much louder and more disagreeable than I ever could have imagined.

No, my children, it seems, try to spend the majority of their time thinking of ways to make the other one’s day miserable.

I’ve heard my sister tell her own children on many occasions she and I were smart enough not to fight so much in front of our parents. Oh yes, we fought. But not so our mother could hear us because every time we got on our parents’ nerves with our arguments, we were sent to weed the garden. I think that’s probably why I don’t care so much for weeding now.

But, as my garden isn’t quite big enough for the both of my kids to weed without injuring each other and they aren’t quite old enough yet to resist the urge to pull up a perfectly good tomato plant, I have to resort to separation. This means, of course, they spend most of their weekends in their own rooms so I don’t have to listen to the bickering.

I feel like when they are together, my entire mothering experience consists of refereeing a cage fight. My daughter wants to spend time with her older brother, but can’t vocalize it enough to draw his attention. So she usually throws a toy at his head.

I mean, I guess it worked, technically. She got his attention. Just maybe not the way she wanted it, but instead in the form of yelling and screaming and stomping. And being sent to her room.

I’ve watched them arguing. I’ve tried to explain to my son his sister just wants to be included, that she only wants to play with him. But she’s destroyed his Lego creations a few too many times, I think. He doesn’t buy it.

My son isn’t innocent, however. He will seek out a toy of his that he knows she wants to play with and bring it right next to her but refuse to let her touch it until the situation erupts. And she throws a toy at his head.
I’d like to hear this is normal, that my children are not going to grow up despising each other because of how they behaved as little kids. And I know that’s probably the case. But it’s hard to see in the midst of all the strife.

And then sometimes, when I least expect it, I see them getting along. No, not just getting along – actually enjoying each other’s company. The other night they were laughing and playing tag and chasing each other through the house. Or sometimes they’ll sit and build Duplo towers together, taking turns with the red tractor.

It gives me a little bit of hope. I want them to be friends. I want them to get along. I want them to be able to rely on the other one in times of need, to share their greatest joys.

I cannot force them, I do realize that. But I can try to guide them, to show them without family, without our siblings, we’re missing our greatest and first friend.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on August 28, 2013.   

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