Before kids, I never understood what it would be like to mediate my two boys almost-constant nagging, arguing & interrupting one another. Maybe it’s not “almost constant,” but when you aren’t prepared doesn’t it feel that way?
If someone had told me half of parenting would be this excruciatingly frustrating sibling mediation I may not have done it. May have stuck with just one kid. I feel a bit awful for writing that out for the world to see, but it’s true. The ongoing management of their relationship battles exhausts me.
All at once, I’m reminded it’s exhausting because it’s important. How they treat one another is important for each of their respective futures. They have the power to destroy or uphold one another in ways that will bring life or kill it. In fact, a large number of folks in their mid-40′s and above have articulated the importance of sibling relationships for long-term peace and happiness is more vital than spousal relationships. (Please excuse my lack of citation, I read this awhile ago & no longer know where I found it).
Last week, I felt the 7 yr. old had crossed the line in his treatment of the 3 yr. old. Yes, the 3 yr. old had pressed the buttons of the 7 yr. old, but the 3 yr. old was -and will be for many years- the more vulnerable child. With a raised voice I said firmly, “I would NEVER let anyone treat you that way when you were 3, so what makes you think I’d let you treat him that way?” I was angry. Our 7 yr. old is a sensitive soul and the accusation + tone was enough to send him to his room in tears.
From one in tears, to two in tears to all three of us in tears. In defending and protecting the one, I hurt the other. Here’s what I knew and here’s what he knows I knew: the 7 yr. old wasn’t being malicious, he’d grown frustrated and he didn’t know how to express that frustration properly.
I too, had grown frustrated and I didn’t know how to express that frustration properly. You probably see where I’m going with this now don’t you?
The boys are mirroring my frustrated behavior, whether handled appropriately or not. If I respond to my husband with a glib “not now!” that is how the 7 yr. old responds to the 3 yr. olds constant bids for attention. If I’m willing to share my cookie they are more often willing to share theirs with one another. And on and on.
My kids fight their battles the way I fight mine.
Sadly, the importance of my relationship with my husband as a ‘tool’ for helping the boys to navigate their own is something I’ve only recent began to grasp. It’s important for me to keep working to gain an even greater understanding of it’s significance.
Do you find the sibling-sibling relationship dynamic as frustrating as I do? Any tips for how to push through these next 15-20 years? How have you dealt with kids mirroring your good (or poor) behavior? Does parenting ever get any easier?