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.
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.
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.