Tag Archives: sibling rivalry

Lord and Lady of the Flies

When I was in high school, I read “Lord of the Flies.” Good book, I thought, but totally unrealistic. Kids aren’t like that. 

And then…well, then I had a child. 

Worse yet, after having that child, I decided to have another child. Meaning I now had children. Plural. More than one. Creating, blindly, siblings. Because in my baby fever, I was so obsessed with if I could, I never stopped to think if I should. 

And now every day of my life is spent pulling apart two feral creatures who are trying to rip each other to shreds. Where literally nothing is off the table. Eye gouging. Throat punching. Collar bone biting. Oh yeah, collar bone biting. I mean, I love my kids but they’re barbarians. Of all the things I was woefully unprepared for as a parent (and there are a lot), the savage sibling fights is the one that perplexes me the most. 

Part of this might be because I spent most of my early life as an only child. My mom had me when she was young so it was only after 17 years that I finally got a sibling. By that point, I was more like the fun auntie than any kind of sister. My role was to roll out of bed, play with him for a little bit and then run off with my friends to hang out in a cornfield and definitely not illegally drink bad, warm beer.  

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So I never got the traditional sibling upbringing. Oh, sure, I grew up with a lot of cousins. No shortage of fighting there. But it was different. With cousins, there’s more of an involuntary manslaughter vibe. With siblings, it’s premeditated.  

Were they born mortal enemies? I do remember on the day my daughter was born, my son’s little toddler fingers immediately found the soft spot on her skull and he tried pushing it in. Looking back, that should have been a pretty big red flag of what was to come. On her end, she had a kung fu grip on his curly red hair starting as early as four months. By five months, she started in with the head butting. 

For awhile I comforted myself with the idea that it was all typical sibling rivalry. But it’s not like I favor one over the other. I ignore them both equally. Is it the age difference? Everyone told me, oh, two years apart is the perfect space between ages. I can only assume now they meant the perfect ages to inflict similar wounds on each other. 

And now they’re old enough to use tools for their nefarious purposes. They can turn anything into a weapon against the other. This one time my son nibbled on a Dorito until it became a neon orange shiv and then he stabbed his sister with it. She once threw a giant rock at his head, straight up Fezzik from “Princess Bride” style. He pushed her into a pool last summer. Last Thanksgiving, she jumped off the couch and landed directly on his face. While wearing skates. 

As for reasons why they fight? Well, breathing is a popular one. Her leg accidentally touched his. He got the purple sippy cup. They both got the EXACT same numbers of M&M’s. One day they both punched each other in the face because they got into an argument about goats. It was literally kids fighting kids over kids. 

I’ve seen barroom fights in dive bars that were more civilized than the clashes that break out at the dinner table night after night. 

Truly, we don’t give kids enough credit. We treat them with such gentle hands, talk about how innocent and loving they are. But I’m pretty convinced my kids would slaughter each other if only they could figure out how. Thank god they have awful hand-eye coordination and hardly any upper body strength because nothing stops these fights. I’ve tried intervening. I’ve tried bribery. I’ve tried distraction. I’ve tried “let’s sit down and talk about our tiny murderous feelings.” No matter what, five minutes later, one is chasing the other with a hammer (where the hell did she get a hammer?) because he called her stuffed kitty cat stupid. 

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It’s exhausting. Which is why I’m currently trying the benign neglect method of our ancestors, just pretending I don’t hear the screams of attempted bloody murder, but making sure I’m close enough should I need to rush anyone to the emergency room. 

Say what you will about the parenting methods of the 70’s and 80’s, but I now know why they always sent us outside. 

Plausible deniability. 

 

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Go play with your sister. That’s why we had her.

Guys, we’re going to have to change the meaning of the word “natural.” It’s either that or stop referring to anything related to motherhood and parenting as “natural.”

Take breastfeeding. Feeding your child with your very own body. It’s often claimed this is, and I quote, “the most natural thing in the world.” It is not. It is semi-aggressively shoving a sore and tattered body part over and over into your tiny baby’s piranha mouth until they finally latch on correctly. Which they have no idea how to do and you have no idea how to get them to do. Which is why you’re both crying and screaming while your husband and your mother and the lactation specialist all crowd around and take turns violently squishing said sore and tattered body part into various shapes in a vain effort to help.

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Then, even when they get older, eating does not come naturally to children. Nor does eating natural foods. Every day is another scene in the ongoing play “Here’s Food, Little Humans!” And every day ends in the same climatic final scene, with the kids yelling, “Oh no, we can’t eat that! That has actual nutrients in it! We demand Cheetos with some Play-Doh dip on the side!”

Sleep? Pffft. Forget it. Getting a kid to sleep “naturally” in their bed requires months of training, semi-professional ninja skills and, when all else fails, sacrificing a small goat to the deity of your choosing.

Kids even turn bodily functions into an absurd struggle. There is nothing natural about potty training. Even animals know not to crap where they sleep. Humans have to be rewarded with stickers and candy for months, sometimes years, before they finally relent and agree that yeah, sleeping is easier when you don’t have a pantsful of poop.

And there is nothing, NOTHING, natural about the unholy and indescribable agony you feel when stepping on a child’s Lego, which I imagine is its own level down in Hell. Just a big ‘ol round room where the floor is covered in Legos and Satan tells you “you can leave as soon as you find a corner.”  

But perhaps the one that surprised me the most is that siblings don’t naturally know how to play with each other. At least my kids don’t. A fact I have oh-so-delightfully been discovering as they get older.

Every day I practically have to introduce the two.

“Oh, Riker, you remember your sister, the tiny creature who ruined your awesome only child existence? Why don’t you see if she wants to play Stormtroopers?”

“Mae, this is your brother. He also thinks it’s fun to spin around until you want to puke, unlike me, your mother. How about you ask him to spin around for 27 minutes straight?”

And every day, they both tell me the exact same thing.

“No! I want to play with YOU, Momma!”

If I am anywhere in the vicinity, forget it. They basically treat me like a portable playground, just clinging and swinging from any body part they can grab onto while I desperately run past on my way to the bathroom or the kitchen or the basement to do exciting things like shower or cook or find a dark corner to inject sugar and carbohydrates directly into my veins.

I just don’t get it. They’re only two years apart. And yet, the oldest seems to view his sister as merely a pet, but like a pet with mange and rabies and thus a pet that should be avoided at all costs.

And I always thought the younger sibling was supposed to worship the older one, following them around like some moon-eyed pet. Not my daughter. Nope. She always seems to be plotting how to overthrow her brother, as though he were an heir to some fabulous kingdom. Even though I keep reminding her that our kingdom is small and in debt and has a wonky dishwasher that is on the fritz. 

It may be time to admit that my two beautiful, smart, funny, kind, wonderful children are duds in the sibling department.

But hey, it’s not like the only reason we had two kids is so that they would have someone to play with. We also had two kids so they can pool their money when they get older and send me and their father to a top-notch swanky retirement home.