Family Life

Surviving the Siblings

Sibling relationships are complex. Sometimes I watch the kids play outside from a window, sipping my coffee and reveling in their obvious enjoyment of each other, even tearing up at the beauty of it all. And now, I don’t even have to be out there to supervise! They are all getting so mature. Then I notice the Deuce’s hands around CoCo’s neck.

Huh. Is that in fun? Nope. It’s not fun. Coffee spills as I hastily set it down and run outside to referee. After disentangling, scolding, and soothing, I retreat. The children initiate a race: fifty times around the house! I smile at the boundless energy. They never really seem to get bored with each other.

Ah, look. CoCo is pushing the Eldest on the swing, how sweet! Oh….wait. He’s violently yanking the swing in a circle, in an attempt to unseat his brother so he can get on. In retaliation, the Eldest is stabbing a thick, sharp twig in the general direction of CoCo’s eyes.

“Stop it!” I shout from the porch, hopping on one foot to get my shoe on. “Everyone gets a turn, except you won’t get one if you’re going to push him like that!” and to the Eldest, “Also, you’re going to poke his eyes out with that stick – do you want to blind your brother!?” Both boys hang their heads. The Daughter jumps gleefully onto the swing, oblivious to CoCo’s scarlet look of death as he realizes he’s lost his place in line. I reorder everyone and step back.

Moments later they are all climbing in the big sycamore tree, fellow pirates sailing the high seas, the Deuce boosting the Daughter from behind, taking turns walking the plank and sliding into the ocean of dandelions below.

“Ahoy, mateys!”

“Avast, ye scallywags!”

“I’m a big, skewy piwate!” hollers the Daughter, who’s R’s are always W’s, until one sad day when they suddenly won’t be.

They are just so, so cute. Oh my goodness, they play so well together. Sometimes I marvel at their made-up adventures. The imaginative role play! The sense of partnership! But then abruptly, a clash of wills erupts.

I am the captain!”

No. Never. You are the first mate. I AM THE CAPTAIN!”

“And you are a mermaid, since you’re a girl.”

The Daughter sends a wail skyward. “I am NOT A MERMAAAAIIIID! I’m in charge of everyone!”

I keep silent, swigging my coffee, now from the position of my lawn chair. Smugly, I muse about the fact that I have been a parent for over 12 years, and I know a thing or two. I’ll encourage them to work it out among themselves. And after some squabbling, they do all calm down. The older ones wisely work out some compromises and a bargain or two, so that everyone is happy with their role in the pirate scenario. In an extraordinarily complicated system, swords are exchanged for light sabers, the Daughter is given the captain’s hat without the actual title, etc., etc. Congratulations, Mom. You are a pro.

Faster than you can say, “Pride goes before destruction,” someone is smacked in the cheek by the broad side of a sword, and the captain’s hat is stomped into the gravel. One child stands aside stone-faced after vowing that they are never playing with the Deuce again. Finally, an ear-splitting, hair-raising scream (which can only be likened to the siren call of a deadly mermaid) hitches a ride with the wind. I am sure, five miles away, horses rear in their stables, dogs hide under decks, and tornado shelters are flung open.

“Okay! The pirate game is over!” I march over and confiscate the swords and hats. “Everyone inside!” I am wary of neighbors staring across the way in alarm. “We all need a break from each other. Everyone go sit on their own beds for a few minutes.” They trudge inside, some simply whimpering in misery, others slyly attempting to trip or jab an elbow into their brother. I turn the offending party around to face me and glare severely at him. He nods in defeat and trudges to his room.

I pour another rather large cup of coffee, sit at the dining table, and pray. For patience, for compassion, for wisdom. After a few minutes of blessed silence, I wander into a bedroom to behold a most unexpected sight. All four children are squeezed onto the Eldest’s twin bunk, looking thick as thieves (or thick as a pirate crew, to be more accurate). Chins rest on shoulders and arms link. They swap jokes, look at each other’s minecraft worlds, and belly laugh, without even a glance at me as I snap a picture.

These are the moments a parent lives for, are they not? I don’t want to ever, ever, ever forget.

A short while later, I hear a roar from the bedroom, followed by three loud thuds. “That’s it! GET OFF MY BUNK!”

Well. They are mere moments, and a moment cannot last forever. But at least I have the photo.


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