Normally, my kids get along fine, but cage them together with too much downtime, and the situation turns feral. Take car trips, for example.
It doesn't matter if we are going to Stanwood or IKEA. Thirty minutes away from home and I start hearing: "You touched me!" "You looked at me funny!" "Stop singing that!" and "STOP BEING SO LOUD!"
My kids are very good at bickering over nothing, and nothing is a very big problem.
I wish they would at least pick more interesting topics to be passionate about. Obamacare, standardized testing, Paula Deen, coal trains in Washington; come on, kids, argue about something better. Whether or not your car window is open makes for a really boring debate.
Do you want to know the longest way to drive to Mount Rainier? It's with two kids in the backseat of your car arguing about who is going to throw up first.
But to be fair to my kids, 11 weeks of summer togetherness has turned me into a wild animal, too. The kind and patient mother they once knew is now on the endangered species list.
The other day we went to Staples to buy school supplies. My kids were hanging all over the cart.
"Move over!" one of them said.
"I will NOT move over. I can be here if I want to," said the other.
Did I say "said"? Actually, it was more of a high-decibel explosion.
If I hadn't already braved the red-light cameras coming through Lynnwood, I would have just grabbed them both and gone home. Instead, I calmly told them to behave nicer.
Wait, did I say "calmly"? Substitute that with "royally flipped out."
Right then, my friend and her absolutely lovely daughter walked by, witnessing my public meltdown.
Move me to the zoo, because I think I could eat my young.
When I got home that afternoon, I reflected on my own part in the sibling rivalry equation. It's really easy to catch my kids squabbling. It's much harder to remember to acknowledge them being kind to each other. Perhaps if I was better at "catching them being good," our situation could improve.
So I made them each a "Be Nice to Your Sister/Brother" stamp book, and tried to be more attentive to positive behavior. A dozen stamps later, and there was already a noticeable difference.
But the real good news is that in 10 days our whole family will be domesticated again. Groom us, leash us and open our cages. Get ready, school year, here we come.
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teaching mybabytoread.com.
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