My kids have been home from school for barely ten minutes, and my throat is already raspy and raw from yelling. I know it’s not the best solution, and it makes me miserable – but then again, so does their fighting, which is the reason I’m yelling in the first place.
It’s constant, man. And exhausting. You’d think that it would be exhausting for them, too, but they keep at it like they’re vying for some sort of world record in persistence. It’s the World Championship of Not Leaving Each Other Alone, and they’re the strongest contenders.
They will literally seek each other out for the express purpose of fighting. You would think that anyone with half a brain would avoid conflict, but no, they start it intentionally. One will snatch up the toy or the electronic device that he knows his sibling wants to play with – not because he wants it, too, but because he wants to be a dick. This, the same kid who holds doors for strangers and always insists on leaving extra quarters on top of gumball machines for the next person. I don’t get it.
It’s always this way, though. 95% of the time, it’s not even valid stuff they fight about. It’s mind-bogglingly trivial shit, like who burps the loudest or gets up the stairs faster. Or they’ll call each other seemingly innocuous names that, for unknown reasons, infuriate the other – like my oldest calls his brother “Dubby Horse” (WTF??) and World War III breaks out. So, given the reaction, he calls him Dubby Horse more often than he calls him by his actual name. Because of course.
Noises to annoy one another, exclamations of “You’re an idiot!”, unprovoked elbow jabs to the ribs as they pass by each other in the hallway … it’s all par for the course around here.
It’s like my helpful (okay, screamed) suggestions of, “Just separate yourselves! Go into different rooms!” float in one ear and directly out the other. Even if one does go into another room, the other is hot on his heels, poking relentlessly at whatever issue is at hand. Doors slam. Kids yell. Tempers flare. I’ll admit that I’m not the greatest de-escalator of tensions, but then again, staying calm amid their unnecessary emotional shitstorm is easier said than done.
Part of the reason I had multiple kids was so they’d grow up with siblings. I fantasized about them playing together, teaching each other things, sticking up for one another in the face of a bully. I didn’t anticipate the rivalry, the bickering, the grueling back-and-forth until I want to toss a pork chop into the middle of the living room, yell, “Fight over this!” and get in my car and drive away.
I browse Facebook and I see photos of other people’s kids getting along and I feel like I’m doing something wrong. Logically I know that most everything you see on social media is the pretty side, the ideal picture, and they probably took the picture during the 2.5 seconds when their kids weren’t fighting. But in my head, the not-good-enough mom part emerges to tell me that there’s a reason mine don’t get along more often – and I’m not sure what it is, but it’s gotta be my fault, damn it.
I worry about the future, when they’re grown and gone. When they no longer live under the same roof, and aren’t obligated to interact, will they call and text each other and make plans to get together anyway? That’s what I want most for them, the kind of strong sibling bond that will carry over into adulthood, the knowledge that there’s always someone who has their back. Will their families know each other? Will their kids be close to their cousins, or will they just be some people they barely see?
And then it’s present-day once more, and I realize everything has gotten quiet again, and there they are: snuggled under one blanket on the couch, both their heads inclined over a tablet, playing a game together like they weren’t just trying to kill each other mere moments ago. My oldest beams encouragingly at his little brother when he nails a high score, and the younger one basks in the attention. I marvel at how they can be so peaceful again, how quickly the tide of sibling anger ebbs and flows, and my heart swells: this is the way they are, despite the way they act sometimes.
And then I snap a photo. Because I’m definitely Instagramming this shit.