There are days I think even if I were the absolute BEST parent on the planet (full disclosure: NOT EVEN CLOSE) nothing I could teach my son or daughter would be more useful than what they learn by having each other. Sure there’s the obvious lesson that comes with having a sibling that you are, in fact, not the only person on the planet with needs. Having to negotiate sharing on a 24/7 basis is character building as well. Yet when my children to grow up to be compassionate, upstanding members of their chosen communities (all things crossed) I’m going to owe it most to the evenings spent like this:
A local burrito joint on Kids Eat Free night, thus lowering my standards for what constitutes “public display of embarrassment courtesy of heathens” because, well, everyone there has obviously thrown in the towel.
Everyone had eaten. The hanger (obviously the anger that comes with being hungry) should have been kept at bay. But who the hell am I to say what tactics for making these fools reasonable are applicable from day to day? Anyway, post burrito molestation (because to call it “eating” is somewhat of a stretch), the 8 year old makes some ungodly “boogity boogity BLAHHHH!” outburst directly into his 2 year old sister’s face. You know. Because just sitting there would be a horrible waste of time.
“SHTOP IT! GET OUT OF MINE FACE”, she asserts herself. Perhaps a little louder than necessary, but she’s two. Volume control isn’t a strong suit. And it wasn’t completely unnecessary.
“Shhhh. Please. Knock it off. Kier, stay out of her face and Josie please do not yell.”
A few moments pass with relative peace. It ends when my son has apparently reached maximum capacity for feigning normalcy and again torments his sister with a one two combo of tickle/aural assault. And like any sensible, well reflexed human, who previously used words that were ignored, she punches him.
Now I don’t make it a habit to sweep physical violence under the rug. And thankfully, I don’t have to deal with it much as my son would sooner take a nap in traffic than purposefully hurt his little sister. However, there is an occasional forceful “nudge” or arm grab when his buttons are pushed. Possibly by example, my daughter isn’t much of a hitter/biter/pusher either. Yet in this moment, perhaps a perfect swirling of end of the day exhaustion and the irresistible opportunity to play the vicitm, he lost it.
“She HIT me! JOSIE! WE DON’T HIT.”
He attempts to grab her arms and face her toward him as he reprimands. This always makes me nuts.
“Kier. Stop. Do not touch her. You don’t need to touch someone to talk to them. Particularly when it was touching them that started the problem.”
He wails. She yells. Thankfully the restaurant isn’t busy and I’m somewhat hiding in the corner of the booth in case I know anyone.
“You (sniff) always (snuffle) take (snort) HER SIDE!”
He then puts his head down on the table, at which point I seize the opportunity to ROLL MY EYES INTO THE BACK OF MY SKULL.
“No. I don’t. But I have told you countless times that you need to respect people’s words. Especially your sister. And she’s smaller than you. What if Daddy got all up in your face and barked like a dog and even though you told him to stop, he just kept doing it? What if your words didn’t work? Would you feel threatened? Might you feel like taking a swing at his barking face?”
We gather ourselves up to leave and feeling remorseful, he requests a hug from his sister. Now, she’s no dummy. Sensing the upper hand, she refuses. Meltdown BACK ON.
“JOSIE! GIVE ME A HUG!”
In my mom hiss voice I strain, “STOP. IT. GET OUTSIDE. SHE DOES NOT WANT A HUG.”
On the street now, he continues.
“JO-SIE. Give me a hug!”
“AAAARGH! DUDE! Listen. It’s the same idea. Just like you have to respect people’s words, you have to respect their bodies. And their words ABOUT their bodies. She does not want a hug right now. No discussion. It doesn’t mean she won’t ever want a hug from you again. Just let it go. You may not ever EVER touch someone that tells you they don’t want to be touched. End of story.”
“But WHY? It’s not like I’m Krusty the Klown.” (I am not making that up for comedic purposes. I swear.)
“Because. It’s just the way it is. I have never made you hug anyone that you didn’t want to hug. Even if you’re related to them. I promise. And I never will.”
Somewhat reluctantly he sees my point and my day’s lesson in respect and generally not being an asshole comes to a close. I high five myself for doing my best to raise people who know the power of their words and aren’t handsy creeps.
Later we arrive home and after baths, they request blueberries before bed.
“Ok. Fine. Kier, I’ll go upstairs and get pajamas, you help your sister dry off and get out the blueberries.”
Seconds later, I’m digging around in their dressers and the girl begins to screech, “Kiernan! STOP. WAHHHHHHH! (Blubbering something inaudible)”
I hear him dropping something at the bottom of the stairs while she continues to wail. As I walk down, he stands there naked, in front of the window of course, with the bowl he apparently intended to use for the blueberries. I don’t even want to know as I hand him his pajamas and begin to dress his sister.
The injustice of it is all too much for my daughter to bear and she sobs some accusation that I can’t make out. Sighing because at this point it’s 8:15, and I mentally clocked out at bedtime 15 minutes ago, I ask, “Kier? What did you do that made her so mad?”
Completely in earnest without so much as a smirk, he recounts, “Well, I was going to get her blueberries so I got out a bowl, then I suctioned it to my butt cheek and realized it felt cool. So she started yelling at me to stop doing that. But I didn’t want to since it felt cool so I kept doing it.”
And there I stood. At the crossroads of the lesson of earlier and ABSOLUTE LUNACY.
“Mom, you said to respect others words about their body. But I was putting the bowl on MY OWN BUTT. Not hers.”
“You have a point.”
Am I doing this right? Because I CAN’T TELL.
Oh well. At least they have each other to blame for their dysfunctions.