Like Cats and DogsJane Roper
I wonder if two siblings have ever killed each other. I don’t mean adult siblings, and I don’t mean, like, on purpose. I just wonder if two children have ever inadvertently mortally or critically injured each other while fighting. Like, one pushes the other and she cracks her head against the coffee table. Or while they’re wrestling over something, one of them is asphyxiated.
Because sometimes I worry that this could happen in our household. It feels like Elsa and Clio are fighting constantly these days, with amazing vehemence. Granted, most of the time it’s not physical. And if it does get physical, usually one of them will end up running to us and saying the other one hit / pushed / kicked them. So I guess death is an unlikely scenario.
But good God, can they bicker. And frequently when they do, they just both end up yelling at the same time. Not even yelling words. Just AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!! Like if they both yell loud enough, for long enough, one of them will finally stop and be like, “Yeah, OK, you win. That was really loud yelling, so clearly you must want that pillow more than I do, so, please, be my guest.” (Yes, they fight over the throw pillows on the couch. What, yours don’t?)
The biggest source of strife is the mini trampoline. This was a Christmas gift from the grandparents, and has become one of the most popular items in the house. It really is a great toy — gets all the excess energy out. But only one of them can use it at a time, which means they are constantly quibbling over whose turn it is, and how long a turn the other one had. Both of them, for some reason, also like to just lounge on the thing. So sometimes one will want to jump while the other is hanging out reading a book, or vice versa. Elsa frequently goes and tries to lie down on the tramp while Clio is jumping, just to mess with her. We use the kitchen timer to set limits sometimes. But I’d really like them to be able to work it out without my having to be the timekeeper.
In general, I wish they were better at working things out on their own. Not everything, mind you. That would be impossible. But maybe, just maybe, like, 30% of their arguments? We encourage them to, of course. Before we get in there and arbitrate, we always ask them / tell them to work it out on their own. We make suggestions as to how. (e.g. using words, not hands/feet/etc. or AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!)
If they can’t do it, or if we arbitrate once and they end up fighting again, we’re all for removing toys, or separating them. Or, if it’s crystal clear who the perpetrator is, sending them to the stairs or their room. But that’s the hardest part: trying to be “fair.” It sucks for both of them to lose a toy, etc. when one of them was clearly being the jerk / provocateur. But I guess it’s inevitable.
The worst — and most frequent — fights are the when one of them is trying to say something to me and the other interrupts them, or feels like the other one has had a long enough turn bending my ear, and it should be their turn now. In these, we basically end up back at AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! And I never know whether to shout over them, whisper (sounds like a good idea in theory but doesn’t work), or just leave the room. I tend to lean toward leaving the room. (Note: this doesn’t really work either.)
Oy. Two very strong personalities at the exact same, belligerent developmental phase = WAR. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s war. And olives. I also hate olives. Don’t judge me.
But help me, please. Any secrets for sibling harmony?
Photo: Elena Clamen