Monday, 25 May 2015

House Rules

Say you're working in your kitchen, and you hear something... Screaming! You look out your window to see the following scene erupt on your lawn. Two people, one male and one female, are engaged in a tussle. The smaller male is sitting on the slightly larger female pinning her to the ground while she screams. She throws him off to the side, and, while he is splayed on the ground, she kicks him again and again and again. He grabs her foot and pulls, toppling her to the ground. She screams and he taunts her. The tussle continues and occasionally you see the flash of a small item—possibly a weapon. What would you do? Intervene physically? Try to reason with the sparring pair? Call the police? ...What if this isn't the first time you've seen this? What if this is an event you've witnessed in varying degrees time and time again? A pattern. What would you do?

Well, I'll tell you what I did...I turned my back and did the dishes. Shocking? Negligent? ...What if I told you the male and female in question were siblings?

Now, I am not an expert on anything, never claimed to be, but I can promise you this, at least—I have more siblings than you. Probably A LOT more, and I do have vast personal experience when it comes to the subject of sibling relations. And one thing is clear to me, when the universe set out to create the laws which govern man and nature, it created a completely unique (at times, baffling) set of rules for sibling interaction that, if applied in any other facet, would result in chaos, psychological damage, and ultimately incarceration. And I'm going share three of those House Rules with you today...

1. Siblings, despite all activity to the contrary, rarely hurt each other—I'm going to clear the air right away before you report me to Child Protective Services. The “weapon” that I observed in the above story was a plastic golf club that my 6 and 4 year-old happened to be fighting over that day, and, if you have siblings or children of your own, I'm sure you can picture the type of “kicking” that was going on...Maybe a better term would be 'foot-shoving.' But here's the thing, based on extensive participation and observation of this type of sibling activity, RARELY does any party come out scathed in any significant way. Just this week, talking to a friend, we discovered our two sets of children had engaged in the exact same interaction--essentially a one-sided staring contest in which the other party repeatedly screams, “STOP LOOKING AT ME!” Now, there has been a lot of studies done on this particular subject, and the evidence is pretty compelling that no person has ever been seriously harmed during a one-sided staring contest. Of course you have a story or two to the contrary, but, I'll plead that, in this case, the exception just proves the rule.

2. Siblings want to fight—At times, one wants to fight more than the other, but therein lies the fun. But the truth remains—siblings do want to fight, and I think that is why stopping this pattern is so difficult. To illustrate this point, I've provided a transcript of a conversation (if that's what one calls a verbal ruckus of that decibalage) that occurred in my van a number of years ago as we were driving through a part of town called 'Stonebridge.'

Child 1 (Age 4): best menacing tone GEM, THIS IS STONEBRIDGE.
Child 2 (Age 2, limited vocabulary and has no idea what 'Stonebridge' is): NO, OLIVER. THIS IS NOT STONEBRIDGE.
Child 1: upping the menacing tone YES, THIS IS STONEBRIDGE.
Child 2: approaching screaming NO OLI. NO STONEBRIDGE.
Child 1: with mirth and menace MOM, THIS IS STONEBRIDGE, RIGHT?
Child 2: embracing screaming NO!! NO!! STONEBRIDGE, NO. MOMMY!!!

I don't think this requires much in the way of explanation. You can see that, even from these very tender ages, my perfectly beautiful and sweet children clearly wanted to engage in this heated (albeit pointless and confusing) argument. So as painful as the next 5 minutes were to endure in a small vehicle, I just let this heat fizzle itself out. Really, what valuable input did I have at this juncture?

3. Fighting = Bonding—I reiterate that these rules were designed exclusively to govern sibling relationships, and any attempt to employ them elsewhere WILL result in relationship disaster and/or incarceration. But this afternoon, as I sit here calmly drinking my coffee to the din of 'oof's and aaahhh's and maybe even the occasional eye-raising smashing sound, I sip peacefully in the knowledge that right now (OOOO!!), right this VERY second (EEEE!!), I am fostering an authentic and loving familial bond that will endure long after I'm gone. In all seriousness though, day after day, they persist with these antics, but as the day wears on, I inevitably find them in a close huddle on our more-than-roomy sofa with their blankets watching a show together, and you can't imagine the devastation if one has to sleep in the bunkbed without the other. It's really quite lovely actually. Even amongst my own siblings, I can confirm that that sister that once threw a steak-knife at me (See House Rule 1), yea, now we're besties.♥ And those brothers that encouraged me to 'hang a moon' on our father as a three year old...Well, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without them. Perhaps, this phenomena is like the hashtag thing...better left to mystery.

I considered attempting to conclude this article with some dribble about the richness of the learning experience when one is able to 'safely' experience the polar extremes of social interaction in the unique sibling establishment. But, hey, I've got a fight to break up, and the phone is ringing...Probably Charlotte, to catch up and arrange a breakfast date on Saturday!