Parenting books and my personality don’t mix. I tend to remember the terrible things that will happen to my children if I don’t follow their advice, but then forget or “forget” what it was I was supposed to do to avoid said catastrophic consequences. Kids = Screwed; Mom = Stressed. It’s a bad combo. So I made a promise to myself when my oldest child was around two that I would stop reading parenting books.
I have broken that promise only a few times. One of them was to buy the incredibly thoughtful book Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber. The book is easily-accessible and gives concrete tips about how to avoid pitting one child against the other to win the attention and affection of the parents.
The problem is, I think it worked.
My kids show no desire to one-up each other to win my, or my husband’s, attention and affection. While I suppose that’s good for their sense of self and security and blah blah blah, I can’t help but think that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if my son picked up the thousands of scraps from his latest paper-cutting exercise to prove he was the “neat one” or if my daughter ate her carrots to show that she was the “good vegetable eater one.”
This is especially true because it’s not like the sibling rivalry thing just went away when my kids decided that they would rather not vie for Favorite Kid. Instead, my kids’ rivalry comes out in completely useless and annoying ways. For instance.
- I had it first! “Had” and “First” are both very loosely defined. “Had” can include: seeing it from across the room; seeing it as it was about to come into the possession of one’s sibling; thinking about seeing it at one time or another. “First,” similarly, is variably defined as: holding it at some point within the past three months; being the person to open it if it was a gift. It does not matter if 3,342 toys were played with in between. Unless you are the person who has possession – in which case, it is defined as: the person desperately clutching to/sitting on the object in question, but almost certainly not playing with it.
- Don’t go in my side! Guys, every. single. time. we all have to either get into the car or get out of it, there is an all-fronts battle as to through which stinking door each child will pass. It’s not like there are rainbows streaming from the passenger side door and bloody nails poking through the other. Though you’d think so.
- I’m gonna win! Closely related to number two. My children will throw all caution to the wind, tearing through parking lots, streets, sidewalks, thorn bushes, hurdles, Dante’s seventh circle, whatever to make it the car (or their rooms, or the bathroom, or the house…) before the other child. Side note: The prize for getting there first is decidedly not their mother’s unwavering pride and awe at their speed and ruthlessness.
- It’s not a race! Spoken by the person who comes in second or is obviously about to come in second.
- That’s mine! It is not feasible to have two of everything. Or is it. Seriously, is it? Because I’m so over this. Also, if I can get five people to go in with me, I’d like to buy six sets of those Ikea colored plates and split them up so that everyone gets six plates of the exact same color. The battle over the orange plate is crushing my soul.
- I’m Bigger! Yesterday in the car, my son – who is undeniably bigger than my daughter – said to her “I’m bigger than you are.” To which she replied “No you’re not! I’m bigger!” This back and forth continued for a minute or so until my daughter broke out the line that usually ends all arguments “But Bubba said I’m bigger!” (Bubba being her imaginary friend.) My son: “No he didn’t, and Bubba doesn’t even exist!” My daughter sat on that for a minute before retorting, “Well, I’m bigger too!” #doesntworkthatway
Just to be clear, I am not encouraging my children to wage battles to win my affection. They already have it, no battles needed. I’m just saying, if they feel the need to explore their competitive spirit, why not compete over who can make Mom the best breakfast in bed? Just a thought. Maybe if I tell my son my daughter will make it first?