When my three kids were toddlers, they used to fight quite a bit — especially in public or during a car ride. And we all know that when your kids are going at it in the car while you’re driving on a four-lane highway, no music is loud enough.
Now that they are teens and tweens, things haven’t changed much; they are just bigger versions of themselves, which makes it even more difficult for me to handle. Especially since giving them a time out in their room is how they would prefer to spend an afternoon, anyway.
There is nothing that makes a mom or dad want to run for the hills faster than when we have a special day or evening planned — and then our children decide to ruin it by fighting and arguing with each other.
I am not afraid to say I need a break from my children on the regular. Which is perplexing, since I adore them. I think these feelings have been confusing parents since the beginning of time. We all have been in the place where our vision — having the kids in matching outfits, behaving splendidly as everyone prances to brunch — does not match the reality.
In real life, trying to get our kids to go to brunch is a joke. We might as well throw the money we spend on the meal in the garbage, since the kids always have a different plan. And by that, I mean they start eyeball-slapping each other as they walk into the restaurant and complain about having to wear pants.
And if you have more than two children, it seems there is always one left out. When they are all getting along, I practically clench my butt cheeks because I know how fleeting it is. My kids have made ganging up on each other a sport. They really seem to enjoy making one of their siblings enraged, simply by making them feel excluded.
The truth is, we want to spend time with our kids, and lots of it. But we want them to get along, enjoy themselves, and behave. I mean, there are times when my kids fight over which ice cream parlor we are going to visit. It’s ice cream! How can anyone be upset? And then it’s ruined for all involved, because I have to put on my mom pants and tell them we are going to turn around and go home if they are going to fight about it. Nobody wins here, and my afternoon binge session with a large dipped cone is in the crapper because I was looking forward to “enjoying it with my family.” Sure, I could eat it alone anyway, but let’s be honest — it’s so much more fun to eat unnecessary calories when you are in a good mood and not feeling like your head is going to explode.
We certainly don’t expect our kids to get along every second, but 75% of the time would be nice. I could totally live with that. But we fool ourselves; time and time again we think “this time it will be different,” or they will “really love this activity.” And even though that’s the case only once in a great while, we continue to raise our expectations — because parents are believers, dammit.
There is nothing that makes me happier than spending time with my children when they are behaving and at least acting like they like each other. Nothing makes parents feel more content than that. (Honestly, I think it makes us feel like we are doing a good job.)
I know I am not alone when I admit I don’t always like my kids. Parents are just more fun when their families are getting along. I keep wondering when my kids are going to catch on to the fact that when they cooperate, I am more likely to buy them junk food and want to do fun things with them. I’ve been trying to tell them this for almost 14 years, and nothing has changed.
I guess I’ll be over here giving them the same talk and the same reminders over and over, all the while clenching my butt cheeks and enjoying the moments they act like they can stand each other. Lord knows they don’t last.