A few days ago, I shared my intent on enjoying every single moment of parenting, even the tough ones. No sooner had I published my sentiments on child adoration than the onslaught of relentless bickering reached an all time high.
This is the reality of parenting: one moment all is well and our little world is at peace, and the next, the gloves come off and the battles rage.
Perhaps I had a heightened sensitivity to the incessant arguing because we had family visiting, or perhaps my children took advantage of our houseguests’ presence by testing the boundaries, as well as my patience. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re already one month into summer break, which means a LOT of together time. Or maybe it’s just that some days are harder than others.
I’m not here to whine about fighting kids. Well, I may vent just a little, but since I have that little voice in my head reminding me of how fortunate I am to have these healthy little buggers, I won’t complain too much. However, since the intent of this blog is to share my experiences as a woman, wife, mother, and human in a relatable, encouraging way, I’m not going to portray my family as a little slice of perfection. Anyone who has stood in our home for more than 15 minutes knows better and could quickly call me on that nonsense.
And it’s NOT real life.
I had a friend and neighbor several years ago who called me one afternoon, clearly upset by what sounded like a serious, life-threatening situation. I could hardly make out her frantic words, but when I asked where she was, her reply was clear. “I’m in the bathroom, hiding from my kids.” From what I could gather, her three children had all turned on each other and then, apparently, turned on her.
If we’re being honest, there was a brief moment of judgment on my part. I mean, I only had two kids at the time, so how much harder could three be? It couldn’t possibly be lock-yourself-in-the-bathroom-hard, right?
Wrong. Karma reared its knowing head a year later and answered that very question for me: it’s a LOT harder. Having two kids means you always have man-to-man coverage. Having three means they realize you’re outnumbered and there’s usually an escapee.
And having four is nothing short of chaos. All the time.
At any given time, amongst my four children, it is quite likely that no less than 256 arguments are occurring at the same time. And there’s no possible way for my referee whistle to settle that level of insanity.
What is the purpose of this madness? Why can’t we all just get along?
About a year ago, after reading a parenting article on sibling conflict, my husband suggested the way to find absolute resolution was to leave the kids alone to work out their issues. Any of you who know me can imagine the look on my face. Was he ACTUALLY suggesting we allow them the chance to find a solution on their own? Did he not understand he was pretty much condoning a fight to the death?!
Anyone with a lick of common sense, my husband included, knows that kids fight, argue, and scratch each other’s eyes out in an effort to learn how to get along with other people and resolve conflicts in the real world. However, I’m pretty sure that nowhere in the real world is it acceptable to resolve conflicts the way siblings do. And we can’t practice this type of conflict resolution with our friends because, frankly, we wouldn’t have any. Siblings know all the buttons to push to put us right over the edge and end up with a fistful of their hair.
“She’s looking at me!!!” (And this is a problem because???)
“He called me annoying!” (Wellll…)
Since we’ve already done the math on how many years these jokers will live under the same roof, we can be realistic in the expectation that they will not always get along. The good news is we can’t shake our sibs the same way we might our friends. We’re stuck with them, and they with us, for life. Wait – that’s the good news???
My sister and I fought like cats and dogs, every day, all the time. And even though she was younger than I, I was afraid of her. And I was a wuss. She could literally hand me my rear at any given moment, both with her words and her bony, donkey-kicking legs. But she was the first one to have my back when someone was anything less than kind to me.
You see, we grow up and stop assaulting our siblings. We embrace them and thank our parents for giving us the gift of lifelong friends we cannot shake, no matter how much we might want to at times. The skinny little girl who beat me up and protected me on the playground all in the same day is now my best friend.
I’ve seen this happen with my own kiddos. Before our oldest left for college, she and her sis were pretty much on each other’s nerves every waking moment of every day. It was a lot of fun.
Now they’re the best of friends, confidants, and when they’re together, always in cahoots to gang up on mom and dad. And I love it. Of course, not all four have reached this level yet, but I’m hopeful.
I’m not going to lie, there are some days when I’ve heard one tattle too many and I want to run away from home myself. Did I just admit that in writing? Since I’m making admissions, I’ll share another. I now have two hiding spots of my own – my closet (kind of sad, huh?) and my strategically placed hammock in the backyard. When the fighting ensues indoors, I can quietly slip away to my hammock and, with the blinds turned just the right way, I am unreachable for dispute resolutions. Sorry, kids, but mom has left the building.
The friend I judged all those years ago had it right, and so did my husband (don’t tell him I said that). Sometimes all we really need is a mommy time out, just a momentary, preferably soundproof, escape from the chaos, and the kids will work it out. I’m certainly not suggesting we parents abandon our children or skip out on teaching them how to love each other without killing each other. What I am suggesting is parents are human, and they need a quiet place to clear their heads, meditate, pray. This quiet time may be just the thing that saves us from ending up on the evening news.
As this summer progresses, I am sure I will have ample opportunity to mediate, teach, and yes, sometimes hide. But when I do, I can kick back in my hammock and bask in the comfort of knowing that eventually, my children will be friends again, and if they’re lucky, maybe even best friends. For now, just don’t tell them where I am.