My kids fight. I mean, they fight a LOT. I used to worry that something must be wrong with them, or that maybe something was wrong with me. Eight years in the Mom’s Club did little to change that – it seemed most of our children, content to play with other children, seldom fought with their siblings. Not until we had more play dates did I realize that my two were no different than any other two. After watching my girlfriend’s kids rolling around on the floor beating the tar out of each other, I began to relax my own standards on brother-sister behavior.
Fighting is not limited to home, weekdays or weekends. When they’re not playing Tag-You’re-It in the grocery store and terrorizing the aisles, they’re fighting over who picks the bananas, who gets the Coco-Puffs and who gets what of whichever worthless toy is dangling amongst the actual provisions we DO need. I do not, by the way, buy any of that $hit so it seems to me crazy fruitless arguing over getting nothing.
They fight in the car. “He’s looking at me!” “What? I’m allowed to look at her.” Owen please don’t look at her, I’m trying to drive. “He’s looking out my window!” Yes, she really did say window. He’s not even allowed to look out her window in the car. Mostly, I try to say nothing because my interference only amplifies her indignance. However, unfortunate or wrong as it may seem, sometimes I can’t help myself. Particularly when she’s screeching like a prehistoric bird in the backseat. Makes driving “just” a little more challenging. And I turn to look at Owen and he’s grinning back at me like the Cheshire Cat.
There must be something about the car – enclosed in a tight space together? One of my friends once enlightened me about the “Dad Arm” – you know, the one not attached to the steering wheel. One of my old college roommates, the youngest of three, used to tell me tales of family road trips and being trapped between her brother and sister beating the baklava out of her. I don’t really know, having been an only child until I was 22, I never got to experience the joy of sibling contact sports. I could give it a go with my “little” brother, but as he now towers over me by nearly a foot, some bodily injury would be inevitable.
Nevertheless, after a recent outing where Ava screamed like a banshee no less than eight times because Owen either looked at her or dared to look out her window – and after I tried unsuccessfully to explain to her as gently as my intolerance would allow that she doesn’t own the window and he can look out of whatever window he likes – I lost it. Tolerance meter on empty. I told her if she wasn’t looking at him, she wouldn’t know he was looking at her. Dead silence for fifteen seconds. Followed by more screaming because he – like any big brother would do – smiled triumphantly in the direction of her window.
They fight over the Wii. Who gets to be player 1, who gets to be Mario, who gets to play first, which game they play, who gets to play at all. Whose idea it was to play to begin with. Inevitably, the fun and games soon turns to war and consequence – with Owen yelling at Ava for letting her character lag behind so he can’t move ahead, or Ava getting so pissed off at Owen she hurls the $35 Wii remote at him, bruising his leg or narrowly missing smashing his glasses.
I still don’t get why things always turn violent. Screaming at each other, declaring hatred til death do they part, announcing “I don’t want a brother/sister” or my personal favorite – vicious name calling. But, all too often, the verbal exchange becomes so insulting that Ava turns physical. She’ll throw things at Owen, or hit or kick him. One night she shoved him hard enough to fall backwards into the coffee table, causing a physical altercation whereby she was pinned to the floor by her neck, squealing like a pig stuck in a fence. I have to admit some trepidation at stepping between them – after all, I’m not a very imposing figure and I always end up injured by default. I’d sooner let them murder each other in the middle of the living room, than get my teeth knocked out by my 5-year-old’s feet.
There is that old advice about letting them work out their differences. Not bad advice, either. However, given that she chipped one of Owen’s adult front teeth with an airborne object last year to the tune of $140 worth of composite, I often have to step in when I hear Owen yelling “Mom!!” in an urgent, somewhat panicked voice as the sound of hard plastic objects crashing echoes from two rooms away.
The joy of parenting one spirited and one compassionate child, however, is not totally lost. In spite of all of this senseless fighting there is so much love between them. Given their genders and age difference, they do mostly enjoy playing together – setting up epic battles between Strawberry Shortcake with her army of Littlest Pets and Owen’s army of Halo soldiers with Mario and Luigi as generals. The sweetest moments are those finding the two of them in Owen’s bed, him playing his DS with her head on his shoulder, quietly watching him play.