Friday, September 23, 2011


Today is a good day, because, you know, I'm ALIVE.  And also, I got my hair colored, and getting rid of all that gray makes me feel a little more cheerful.  Also, I finished TWO things on my to-do list that I didn't really want to do, and I have to time to read and maybe do a little puttering before the kids get home.

I've been reading blog stories to Addie at night--old ones, like from when she was two-and-a-half.  I've never seen that child pay so much attention as she does to stories about herself, and it reminds me of how hungry I felt as a child for stories about myself.  We have lots of pictures because my grandmother was such an avid photographer, but because of the struggles my mom went though when I was young, there are not many stories.  Which I totally get.  As you know, I have swiss cheese brain.  If it weren't for the occasional musings of this blog, I'm pretty sure most of my kids' childhoods would be forgotten over the next few years.

[Side note that should not be a side note:  My avid-photographer grandma, who you know as Ruby, is back in the hospital again.  She was resuscitated, again.  She had a car accident a few weeks back, bumped her head and got stitches a few days later, and then passed out without her oxygen in last week.  Things are getting interesting].

Anyway, it occurred to me that in the early stages of this blog, I wrote a lot more about parenting.  Mostly because I was miserable at it and couldn't figure anything out and just need to write and let it all out merely to survive.  Things are so much easier and I feel so much more like myself now, after these last seven years, that it's hard to fathom.

In any case, I thought I'd post briefly about a parenting-related topic known as "Dealing with Sibling Rivalry."

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry in our house has primarily consisted of the following steps:

1) Sibling Brutality.  Sibling brutality in our house usually looks like Addie and/or Nolie hitting, pushing, tripping, being mean to, saying something about, looking funny at, ignoring, and or otherwise annoying and/or assaulting one another.  It leads to the next step, which is
2)  Rivaling One Another for Mommy or Daddy's Attention.  Otherwise known as tattle-taling, I'm Telling, or Mommy, Guess What Addie and/or Nolie Did To Me, and/or Wailing in Outrage.
3)  Mommy or Daddy Flying off the Handle.  At the end of his or her rope at these kids-who-won't-stop-bickering when all I'm trying to do is finish-this-article or boil-the-hops-for-this-homebrew, mommy and/or daddy attempts to adjudicate and/or figure out what really happened (good luck), yells at the kids to knock it off, separates them, sends them to their rooms, says unkind things under one's breath, and/or engages in the hallowed practice of the time-out.  To varying degrees of failure.
4)  Fallout.  At this stage, kids pout, scream, fuss, and/or complain of things being "not fair," whatever that means.
5)  Parental Guilt.  In this culminating stage, the parent returns to whatever task was at hand, flustered and flushed, angry at his or her children for being inconsiderate buttheads to one another and angry at one's self for yelling and inflicting punishment because, after all, that sort of models the behavior one is trying to stop.

And, repeat.  Sometimes, five minutes later.

This happened a lot in the spring.  A lot.  But I've been parenting enough now to believe pretty strongly in this little wisdom nugget:  if something in your family dynamic is making YOU unhappy, YOU are the only one who can change it, and that change has to be in YOURSELF.  Don't like how many socks are on the floor all the time?  Well, you can drive yourself crazy trying to get people to pick up their socks, or you can just suck it up, pick them up, and then hide them in a secret spot and see how they like having cold feet all the time, tee hee.  See, my problem was that I was trying to get my kids to change, and that is one particular effort at which I am doomed to fail.  I also believe in modeling the behavior you want to see in your kids.  This is so easy when you're engaged in bad behaviors, like sarcasm.  I'm sarcastic, and then my kids model my sarcasm, see?  But it also works for positive behaviors.  It just takes longer.

So I decided my tack for getting out of the 5-stage sibling rivalry merry-go-round would be to model the calmest, most sympathetic, most compassionate and/or faux-compassionate behavior I could muster.  I would no longer try to adjudicate the spats, nor would I punish anyone, nor would I get angry myself.  Instead, I would become the lovingest and kindest comfort-giver you can imagine.

Treacly.  Awful.  Insincere.  Totally against my fierce, honey-badger-like nature.

I know.  But it has totally worked.  So here's how it looks now, communicated via a sample dialogue:

Nolie:  Mommmyyyyy!  Addie just told me I don't look as cute as I think I look!  And then she poked me in the arm, and look!  I have a pinpoint-size owie there!  Waaah!

Mommy:  Oh, Nolie!  I'm so, so sorry!  That must have made you feel really, really awful.  Give me a big hug.  Do you need a bandaid?  So sad!

Nolie:  Wha...??

Mommy:  You poor, poor thing.  I love you so much.  Addie, isn't it so sad, what happened to Nolie?  Should we give her a hug?  Nolie, what are you going to do now?  Go work on your puzzle?

Nolie wanders off, completely befuddled, does puzzle.  Addie wanders off, completely befuddled, goes to read.

Sometimes there are permutations, where you have to give them both the big compassionate whizbang, and you all end up hugging and oh-my-goshing, or where you have to deal with someone who is really hurt and then also give compassion to the one who really hurt the other one, which is hardest of all and makes you secretly wonder if you're going to raise a sociopath.  But I don't think so.  It mostly just diffuses everything, and I've noticed both increased peace in my neck of the woods and a slightly elevated respect for and kindness towards one another between the girls.

Problem of Sibling Rivalry Solved.

There.  That's all you'll get from me on parenting for a while.  Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Did I mention it's my seventh day without dessert?  I know Pioneer Woman happens to be doing this, too, but that's a total coincidence, because I am my OWN WOMAN, dammit.  I also believe this is some sort of Davies family record.  I'm feeling very sugar-free.

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