I was so smug. I admit it. I was cocky, and smug about how my kids were going to be having a completely unstructured summer. They were going to be relaxing, playing with the hose, and swimming in the pool. Making lemonade stands and writing in their journals. Exploring the woods and bike riding. They were going to have the summers that everyone keeps writing about – the chase-the-ice-cream-truck-daydream-and-explore sort of summer that’s in vogue these days. Granted, I may have been forced into that decision because summer camp is so super expensive, and since they have a stay at home parent anyway – might as well reap the benefits and be able to have the summer that everyone keeps saying kids should be able to enjoy.
In reality, they spent yesterday at each other’s throats, and by the end of the day, both Jessie and Sam had been sent (dragged, whatever) into their rooms, sobbing and raging about how much they hated each other.
Because “unstructured” can also mean “lots of time for your younger brother/older sister to torment you”, apparently.
It wasn’t all bad. Not all day. It’s hard to remember that, because the screaming fights tend to color my memories of the day. But there were times when everyone was happy. When the hose was running, and the army guys were set up. When Sarah and Jessie were outside, working on their Piknesian culture (not just a religion, it’s a people – a TRIBE, if you will), and Sam and Harrison were tearing around the side yard, waving water guns and happy. When everyone smelled like sunblock, and my only interaction with them was doling out ice cream cones – not because I didn’t want to talk to them, but because they were all happy and playing and busy and didn’t need any parental involvement.
But when it went bad, it went spectacularly bad.
I’m at a loss as to how to
make encourage them to get along. I’m reduced to googling (because that’s how I parent, I google when times get tough). I’m reading all sorts of helpful tips to start them off right – to have a present “from the new baby” at the hospital for the first visit after birth, to encourage the older sibling to be the “helper” and get diapers and wipes. Make them feel included. All of which I did, by the way. Doesn’t appear to have a lasting impact.
I’m thinking behavior modification charts, stickers earned for nice behavior towards each other. Penalties for snarkiness, name-calling or eye rolling. Rewards for cumulative days of not whacking each other. I can take away computer privileges, whisk away the kindles and the Wii controllers. Maybe a marble jar – a marble for every time they do something kind. When the jar is filled – family trip to Dairy Queen.
Tell me I’m not the only mom who deals with this – tell me my kids aren’t the only ones who declare war on each other, and at times, literally despise each other. Please, remind me that we all survive fights with our siblings, and come out the other side still talking to each other. What works for you? Any advice, encouragement or even just stories of how you fought constantly with your brother when you were a kid but love him to death today – I’d love to hear it.