Kids, I'm Done Breaking Up Your Fights. Figure It Out, Or Kill Each Other. I Don't Care.

by Melissa L. Fenton
Dmitry Naumov / Shutterstock

Way back when, in the fantasy land I used to live in called “my kids will never do that,” I had grandiose daydreams of all my lovely children getting along famously and being BFFs until the end of time. They would possess generous and selfless hearts of gold, eagerly sharing all of their belongings without hesitation. They would always have each other’s backs, acting graciously when the other wins at something, and inspiring when they don’t. We would live in a harmonious wonderland of sibling seventh heaven, where fighting was something that those other family’s siblings did, but certainly not ours.

And then I proceeded to give birth to children whom I can only describe as a combination of the MMA’s next rising stars and an award-winning debate club team. My kids appear to have been born with the fight club gene, and while I used to voluntarily intervene in their brotherly brawls (and also by necessity to save my lamps from crashing to the floor), I have decided I am officially done playing referee. So go ahead and ring the damn ding, ding, ding, ding bell from the corner because this mama is out of the brotherly boxing ring. And I don’t give one damn black eye what happens to them anymore.

When did moms think we needed to get emotionally (and often physically) involved in the fights our kids have with each other? I grew up with two sisters — where drama and petty skirmishes ran amuck and which always included some form of door-slamming, hair-pulling, makeup-breaking, sandal-throwing, and actual bitch-slapping. And I don’t ever remember my mom stepping in to help us settle our differences.

I do, however, recall her yelling from the other room: “Do you even know how ridiculous you’re being? Figure it out girls.” And lo and behold, we did — with zero intervention.

So how come we presently feel like, in addition to the other 5,000 jobs we have as mothers, we need to micromanage sibling relationships? Why do we think we need to butt into each and every squabble, fight, and disagreement to analyze its cause, find the solution, and ensure (and sometimes force) our children to get along 100% of the time? I even saw a viral FB post recently of a mother who forced two arguing siblings to wear a single T-shirt, and then slow dance together until they got along. Seriously? I don’t have time to facilitate sibling slow-dance therapy (and if anybody is first in line to get therapy around here it’s gonna be me). Real life isn’t like that, where we have therapeutic interventions all day long, and the sooner my children know that they need to learn the skills to settle real differences, the better.

Just taking a moment to look at the state of our country right now, it’s safe to assume someone’s mother was always over-involved in breaking up fights and not allowing the kids to figure it out for themselves. Because these days, most adults I know are simply incapable of having real civil discourse, negotiating differences, or possessing and exercising authentic self-sacrifice, selflessness, and compassion with each other. I don’t want my kids always having to depend on me, or a third party, to facilitate reconciliation.

Nowhere else does this seem to manifest itself more than in the teen years, when mean girl (and boy) drama rears its ugly head, thus resulting in mothers everywhere phoning other mothers (and their daughters) and attempting to intervene and solve friend feuds they have no business trying to solve. Let your teenagers manage and figure out their own friendship scuffles, and stop trying to repair their relationships as if you’re back in preschool playgroup. In a word, stay out of it (unless it really crosses the line, and you’ll know when it gets to that point), so they can develop their own the valuable skill set of, well, dealing with people who they may not get along with.

I’m not lazy, selfish, or disinterested in the strong (or not so strong) sibling bonds my kids forge with each other. I’m just tired of being the middle mom, witness, judge, lawyer, and jury to each and every one of their conflicts. And ever since I’ve stopped meddling in their mayhem, they’ve managed to resolve their disagreements quicker, friendlier, and with more ingenuity than I would have ever been able to provide. Go figure.

This leaves my handcuffs free for other and more exciting uses. Wink wink.