Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On Raising Siblings Who Fight

Great pic for inferences, characterization, story starter...

When we were growing up, my sisters never fought with each other.
They were what people call "Irish Twins" and therefor too close together in age to hate each other, or compete for things.
I, however, was born 4 and 5 years after them respectively, so they fought with me all. the. time.
People with one child ask me all the time about what the right age difference is between two kids.
Should we have a second one right away, or should we wait, so that the older sibling is big enough to stick up for the little one, and guide them? Help take care of them? Look out for them?
I always say the same thing:

If you're going to have two kids, either have them as close together as possible {like, as soon as that perineum heals}, or as far apart as possible {like, when your first one starts middle school}. Otherwise, I hope you like hosting cage fights between midget terrorists in your house 24/7.

My brother is almost 10 years older than me, and he never fought with me.
I mean, it'd be pretty shitty for a 15 year old to torment a 5 year old, so that responsibility was left to my sisters.
My kids now have the same age difference between them that I had between me and my sisters, and most days it. is. hell.
Sometimes Lainie feels generous, or her real friends are busy and she desperately wants someone to boss around and play with, so she graciously allows Jack to be her groupie. She plays games with him and talks to him in a sweet voice, comforts him when he cries, and they're best friends.
But god help her if Jack doesn't worship the ground she walks on for one whole second, or if either of them wake up in a bad mood, or it's a day that ends in Y, because then they fight like two drunk hobos over the last fish sandwich at McDonalds.

I'm torn most of the time over how to handle their fighting.
My dad never really intervened in my sisters campaign to make my life a living hell, unless they legitimately hurt me physically, or scared me to the point that he had to deal with raising me.
He was an expert at tuning out our sibling wars, and as long as it didn't become his problem in any way, I was on my own. When he did occasionally step in, his favorite form of punishment - or probably in his mind resolution - was to make whichever sister was fighting with me, hug me and say they were sorry.
This of course always resulted in us giving each other a death grip hug, arms wrapped around each other's necks for dear fucking life, whispering things in each other's ears like 
"You smell like old beef and armpits. I'm going to fart in your mouth while you sleep."

Still, Dad's backseat approach had it's benefits: I learned how to hold my own in a verbal dispute, I learned how to throw a punch, I learned never to play "close your eyes and open your mouth" with anyone, for any reason. I learned to handle myself, and keep myself entertained. I spent a lot of time playing alone, but now I have a kick ass imagination and a stellar knack for avoiding almost all social situations.
But it had it's downsides.
I was outnumbered, I desperately wanted to fit in with my sisters and never did. I cried a lot.
Jackson is a sensitive little guy, and he thinks Lainie hung the moon and lit the sun on fire, and that she gets up every morning to pull it across the sky in a fiery chariot, so I find myself stepping in when they fight more than some parents would.
Also, their fighting drives me fucking crazy, so I think I spend more time breaking up fights than a lot of parents would, simply because I cannot stand the sound of whining and needless crying, yelling over stupid shit, or temper tantrums in general.
I cannot stand it.
I know all parents have a different view of how to handle sibling fighting, and some parents managed to give birth to children that never ever ever fight regardless of their age difference or genders.
These children are like unicorns to me.
"What do you mean your kids have never screamed that they hated each other, and then hit each other with Nerf bats until you sprayed them with a hose? That's a real thing?"

So for those of you wondering about age differences between your kids, let me say this:
If I had it to do over again, and I hadn't been 16 when I had Lainie, I would have gotten pregnant with Jackson before I even left the hospital after having her. Knock all that shit out in one fell swoop.
What's changing two diapers if you're already changing one?
What's breastfeeding two babies if you're already feeding one?
What's two carseats and two strollers, if you're already lugging one?
In the end, if it means they won't fight and try to claw each other's eyes out over a cup of ice water from Starbucks that was technically yours in the first place, then it's worth any cost.

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