If you walked into our home around 5:45 p.m. yesterday, you would’ve found a Normal Rockwell-esque scene.
Mike was preparing dinner for the four of us. I was setting the table and pouring drinks. Elena and Eli were sitting together on the couch, nary a screen in sight, holding hands. That’s what 5:45 p.m. looks like in everyone’s house, right?
What you wouldn’t have witnessed, just a few minutes before, was the sight of my beloved children trying to tear each other apart from limb to limb over a fake dollar bill that came in the mail. I don’t remember Normal Rockwell painting any sentimental favorites of children trying to kill each other over counterfeit money. Or maybe I missed that one.
The imposed punishment for the little heathens? Spend the rest of the time until dinner was ready holding hands on the couch. For any instance of squabbling or attempt to maim the other, another minute would be added to forced family affection. It seemed to work, and they got along swimmingly for the rest of the evening. Still, I know the next showdown is just around the corner.
When it comes to dealing with sibling rivalry, Mike and I are dumbfounded and completely unprepared. Mike is an only child. I have 3 older siblings, but the age difference is large – I’m the youngest by 11 years. Mike’s mother never had to deal with it. By the time I was old enough to remember how my parents handled it, my siblings were moving out to start lives of their own. I think their general philosophy was “She’s the baby. Leave her alone.” As much as Eli would love me to adopt this sage parenting practice, I don’t think it would be our best tactic.
With a five-year age difference, I’m sure we face a different dynamic than those of you who have your children spaced more closely together. Days can pass when they’re barely in the same room, off doing their own thing with their own friends. Then there are the days when they can’t be in the same room without always crossing that proverbial line, poking and egging each other on for the sheer entertainment of it. And then there are those blissful, rare moments when they engage with each other and enjoy each other’s company.
So rare it had to be captured on film, just to prove they do love each other.
You have no choice in your siblings and I’m not so naive as to think they should be good friends or always get along. I don’t even expect them to play together much. They are as different as can be – in age, gender, interests and personalities. But I do expect them to love each other, to respect each other, and to stick up for each other. And above all, to refrain from sending anyone to the ER over funny money or the extra marshmallows you think the other one got in their bowl of Lucky Charms. Is that too much to ask?
I think not. And if it is? I hope they’re ready for a lot more forced family affection. If they can dish it out they better be ready to hug it out! Or maybe this would be a better tactic:
Cone of shame for naughty siblings! Yes! I think I even saw it in a Norman Rockwell painting once.
Do your kids fight a lot, too? Did you fight with your siblings and end up getting along just fine as grownups? Or is it just one big happy Norman Rockwell painting for you every day?