Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kid Wars

To all who have been obsessively hitting "refresh" - I'm still here. I haven't posted since Thursday because I've been spending almost all of my time refereeing fights between my kids. Ah, the gods have senses of humor - just after I post the top 10 parenting rules, my kids have to go and prove to me that I have no freaking idea what I'm doing.

Here's how it went down...

Claire got a really cute Fur Real kitten from her Grandpa Ben for Christmas. It's the one on the left. It meows and purrs and kneads its paws, it is very sweet. Anyway, Mary Grace got about 10,000 presents, so it's not like she got socks and underwear and Claire got everything cool... but of course, MG is obsessed with Claire's kitten.

Claire was playing with it this morning, and MG took it away from her (for the dozenth time). I gave her a time out (again). There was a lot of crying and screaming in the time out (but she was on the step, I guess...). Claire, having the same tender, sweet heart that her daddy has, went over, sat down next to MG, and handed her the kitten... This after a day or three of having stuff taken right out of her hands, of being told, "NOOOOOOOO!!!" when she tried to play with one of the dozen Barbies that MG got, etc.

So what did my darling oldest daughter do when her baby sister handed her the kitty? She stood up, screamed, and hurled it onto the staircase, hitting the vertical part of a step about two feet up. The kitty bounced down the stairs and stopped working.

I went ballistic. I walked over and grabbed her by the arms, turned her around, and shouted at her. I'm not proud of this, but I was honestly livid. "Claire was trying to be NICE, she wanted you to feel better, and she gave you her kitty? And what did you do? You BROKE it! You are acting like a horrible brat, and I am sick. of. it. The next time you take something away from Claire, two princess Barbies are going in the garage, do you HEAR me? And if that kitty is broken, you are going to buy Claire a new one with your own money, now GO TO YOUR ROOM!"

I have never sent her to her room before, but I seriously wanted to tan her hide, and it was safest for both of us that she get as far away from me as possible at that moment.

Fortunately, the kitty wasn't broken. After about 5 minutes I got a very weepy Mary Grace down from her room, and we sat and talked. I told her that I would take her to buy a kitty just like Claire's with her piggy bank money, and that I was sorry I lost my temper. She apologized to me, and to Claire, and was honestly better for most of the rest of the day.

Of course the entire universe is sold out of that kitty, so we had to get one for her online.

It wouldn't be so hard if Claire were giving it back to MG as good as she gets, but Claire doesn't have a mean or selfish bone in her body. She doesn't want to take MG's stuff, she wants to play with her. She wants to be like MG, and liked by MG, and it just breaks my heart when MG spits in her eye instead. It makes that defensive streak that every mom has come out in me, and even though MG is just as much mine as Claire, I want to spank the snot right out of her.

I know it's normal. I know it's abnormal for Claire, at her age, to be capable of playing with MG - she should still be doing "parallel play," but she's socially advanced - probably due to having an older sister. I know it's normal for MG to think "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine..." I know it's normal for siblings to fight - I fought with mine and the three of us are extremely close today. But it makes me nuts. I have a very hard time following my own advice to "stay calm" and "avoid a battle of wills" when it comes to kid vs. kid evilness. Do we have to buy two of everything until they're a certain age?

I think we're strung out (like a broken strand of lights) on the holidays at this point. We're out of our routine, we're strung out on sugar and carbs, we're spoiled with new toys... We're in desperate need of getting back to normal around here, and I know we aren't the only ones. Don't get me wrong, we've had a super Christmas season, with minimal holiday-induced-insanity on my part, and lots of family and friends and food and fun... But I think we've had enough. As with most things, if you have too much merriness eventually it'll make you a little sick.


Anonymous said...

Keep sticking up for -- and protecting -- Claire. If you were to allow MG to take advantage of her younger sibling without consequences, then Claire would grow up with self esteem issues ... and she'd also be more vulnerable to predators outside of the family. You have to make Claire realize that she's worth protecting.

Amy said...

Wow, Anon... Sounds like I really hit a chord with you. I hadn't actually thought of this situation in such dire terms. I sure hope you're not speaking from personal experience, and if you are, I am so sorry for the experiences that informed your comment.

I realized in talking to my mom that, as an oldest child myself, part of the reason it drives me so nuts when MG bullies Claire is because I regret the bullyish things I did to my own siblings when we were growing up. I'm yelling at myself, in a way, and trying to prevent her from growing up with similar regrets to mine, in addition to the simple desire to protect Claire.

Mom assured me that it's actually healthy to show MG that I'm extremely unhappy with her when she behaves in this way, and that, in fact, if I remained calm and neutral she wouldn't get the message as effectively as she did when I lost my temper. There's a difference, Mom said, between losing my temper and losing control - the former being an effective parenting technique when applied very judiciously, for only the most grievous of transgressions, and the latter being unacceptable and potentially dangerous, of course.

This parenting stuff is really hard, isn't it? And I don't remember them teaching any of this in the prenatal classes. I guess we all have to give ourselves grace and forgiveness, recognize that we are human and fallible, and continue to do the best we can.

I hope that you've come to a point in your life where you feel both worth protecting and protected.


Have the T-shirt said...

As a parent, I think I parented my children along the same foundation as your Ten Steps. I am NOT a yeller or a spanker. And yet, there were times I yelled and I can tell you that when I did, my kids heard what I was saying over all the yelling cause they were shocked beyond words.

My father rarely spanked or yelled, but I remember vividly one time he did spank me because I'd run out in front of a car in a parking lot. I scared the life out of him and his reaction left an impression in my young mind. I never did that again, that's for sure.

I'm sure MG learned an important lesson and Mommy shouldn't feel the least bit guilty for imparting it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Amy. If you only knew ... . And, by the way, I'm the youngest child. So my perspective is different from yours.

You said you'd feel better if Claire fought back. But she can't. She isn't as physically developed as her older sibling, nor is she as smart as her older sibling. So she can't "return in kind" what MG's doing to her. Maybe when Claire's around 15 it will be more of a level playing field! But there are a lot of years to establish patterns (good or bad) between now and then.

You're such a thoughtful parent. Kudos!

dee said...

Wow, it's like we're living parallel lives when it comes to our daughters (mine will be 2 in Feb. and 4 in June)...there are a lot of incidents like this one in my house these days. I, too, have a defensive streak in me that feels for my youngest, while eschews the selfish actions of my oldest.

Yesterday I pretty much lost my cool as well and felt bad about it several hours later. Thankfully, the big girl came home and was back to her smiley, happy self with no mention made of the morning's events.

Being an only child, I'm not sure of sibling 'logistics' but am trying to do the best with what we've got (as well as insight my husband, one of three kids himself, has).

We're ready to get back to 'normal' around here too...see ya later holidays; same time, next year.