Julie Lyles Carr: Brother, Brother

Friday, May 22, 2009

Brother, Brother

So the QuestFest continues...and may I just say, this has been such a wonderful experience. Your questions have prompted me to put on paper (okay, screen) elements of life history that I might not have. I have thought of my blog as a place to record my childrens' days and our present experiences. But through your comments, you've spurred me on to record the events and histories that got us to this place and this time. Thank you.

I will continue to chronical my romance with Mike since I had you at fake vomit. And I will answer your questions about birth control, family size, 'me' time and all the other great topics with which you have come up...which you have come up with...darn, there is no way to not leave a participle dangling on that one. Well, I trust you catch my drift. But you'll have to tune in next week for those revelations (*snort*).

Today, I'm addressing this great topic, posed by JMB Mommy of His Grace is Enough. She writes:
I do have a question-- How do you deal with sibling rivalry? We teach, teach, teach, discipline, discipline,etc. Do I just keep up what I am doing until they move out? :) Maybe I am intervening too much? I don't know...it scares me...

Well, you know, my kids always get along perfectly, so.....

Sorry, there.  Slipped into a bit of fiction writing.  Must be something about the hemispheres of the brain and too much coffee or not enough or something...

Ah, yes, ye old sibling rivalry.  We have our fair share around here, and oh the irony that I call it 'fair share' as the rivalry participants feel it's all about 'unfair share'.  While I am a very laid back mom about many things, squabbles are not one of them.  I detest bickering and sniping.  Detest.  We do not tolerate physical fisticuffs at all, in any way, shape, or form.  We try to coach our kids through verbal disagreement as we believe it is okay to disagree with someone as long as there is respect.  But when it comes to those old rivalry riffs,  I'm liable to send all offending parties involved in verbal sparrings to nether regions of the house.

But those signals of strife do have a benefit, though it can be hard to hear through the whining.  I have learned in the Land of Eight that certain players have higher needs for my undivided attention.  They just do.  They need greater reassurance of my adoration.  They need more verbal encouragement, more involvement.  And if they are feeling a bit depleted of my Mommy Devotion, they will throw up the red flag that garners my full attention...they will begin the age-old game of Bicker.

Without calling names (or numbers, as in the case on my blog), I have a player or two of Bicker who always seem to be at the center of the action.  Life gets a little dull and they decide to throw themselves a good game of Bicker, choosing a sibling closest to them in the car, on the couch, at the school table...really, any geographically close relative will suffice.  It will begin subtly, a jocular jab with a bit much too bite, an eye roll, a smirk.  And then acceleration begins.  And then the volume increases.  And then the whining and tattling starts.  It's such a well-formatted game, isn't it?

I haven't yet figured out how to completely dispose of the Bicker game.  But I do have some over-the-counter ideas, some things that seem to ease the discomfort.  When I can remove my emotion from the game, we all benefit.  It's hard for me to stand in neutral ground.  It's hard for me to not immediately point the finger at the one or two that I know hold the greatest proclivity for getting the Bicker ball rolling.  But when I can, when I can intervene calmly, when I can calmly listen to the litany of slights, I always learn the same thing:  somebody is screaming for some one-on-one time.  With one of my main Bicker players, a small investment of time on my part yields a great dividend of sibling peace.  This child will ride a bike next to me while I run; only this child goes with me and this child will stay with me for miles and miles, not really needing to talk, just wanting a singular activity with me that is only ours.  I also try to read the same books as this child; this child loves that we can speak literature together, even though my fascination with dragons and quests is not, um, as intense.  And this child thrives when I place a higher mantle of responsibility on their developing shoulders.  It seems to assure this child of their special role, their unique office in our family.

It has never cured the sibling rivalry issue, but it has often assuaged the core issue.  And the core issue is this:  regardless of family size, every child needs to know that they occupy a special place in family life, a position that is unique and customized specifically for them.  Their talents, their dreams, their hobbies, their little habits and homilies all make up an important aspect of the family portrait.  And when I take the time to nurture that belief in each of my children, their need to scramble for position while elbowing their siblings out of the way seems to recede. 

We also seek to simply enjoy each other's company.  My brothers are two of my best friends and a large part of our shared language is laughter.  We learned to laugh with each other long and hard while still kids and that laughter language still binds our lives together to this day.  And so we laugh with our kids.  We sit around telling stories and laughing at shows and sharing family jokes.  We tease and play, giggle and chase.  Because there's just something, something binding and ancient, about the people who can make you laugh until you cry.  The people who know how to tickle your soul.  The siblings who can split your sides with stories.

And I would share more of my knowledge.  But I have to go upstairs now.  From the sounds of it, there may be a Bicker game brewing, which is hard to believe, given what a perfect mom I am....

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