I want to make it perfectly clear that I love my children more that life itself. My dad always says that having children is like wearing your heart on your sleeve and he couldn’t be more right. My Baby Belles are beautiful, brilliant and loving angels...unless you are with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Part of our new situation in Clayton means that the girls and I get to spend the summer together. I was really excited about the notion of me and the Baby Bells hanging out all summer. We were going to have idyllic picnics and fun-but-educational museum explorations and fantastic day trips to the beach.
Sweet. Baby. Jesus.
They fight like rabid possums.
I was not prepared for this animosity. My brother and I got along swimmingly. I don’t know what to do.
I’ve tried rationalizing and I don’t know why. One of my biggest pet peeves is those mothers who talk to their screaming children in those voices like they’re trying to diffuse a hostage situation. We've all seen it: Precious is gnashing and flailing and screaming and is so past DEFCON 1 that the nukes are already in flight, still mother thinks that she can somehow reason with her Bob Ross “Happy Little Trees” voice. Take Precious out of the damn building and let everyone else enjoy a little sanity. I don’t give a crap if or how you discipline her when you get her out there—it’s not about her—it’s about being respectful to others.
Nonetheless, I’ve found myself employing the Happy Little Trees from time to time during one clash of the Belles or another. I certainly don’t do it in public because I am well bred and respectful, but there are times when I am fool enough to think that I see teaching opportunities at home: “Belle 2, your sister just wants a little bit of alone time. You know how sometimes you get grouchy and you don’t really want to be around anyone? What? Belle 1, I didn’t necessarily mean that you were grouchy, I was just using an example that Belle 2 could relate to—Belle 2, there was no reason in this world for you to hit your sister over the head—Belle 1, just because she did it doesn’t mean that you can punch—EVERYBODY IN TIME OUT! PICK A CORNER! OH GREAT, GO FIGURE YOU WOULD BOTH PICK THE SAME CORNER AND FIGHT OVER IT! MOTHER—MM—PFF—WW—TRUCKER!!!”
I can also completely forget about concentrating on a particular task for more that 5 seconds at a time because the little boogers will tattle like nothing you have ever seen. I sometimes wonder if they are practicing for the Witness Protection Program.
The other day I was staring in abject mystification at my damn Dyson vacuum cleaner (full time mommyhood also means the loss of the cleaning lady) and I was wondering if I was supposed to clean my floors with the damned thing or if it became a Transformer. As I was hunting in earnest for the “Start” button, Baby Belle 2 came up and said, “Mamaaaaaa, Baby Belle 1’s not letting me look at the movie she’s watching on Daddy’s iPad.”
Still looking for the Start button, “Tell her I said to let you watch it, too.”
Baby Belle 1 comes up, “Mamaaaaaa, I can’t watch the movie in peace and quiet. Baby Belle 2 keeps asking all of these questions about what’s going on in the movie.”
Shouldn’t a fucking start button say “Start?” Did the sadistic bastards hide it somewhere? “Well, just answer her questions unless it’s an inappropriate movie and if it is inappropriate movie, switch it because it probably isn’t something that you should be watching either.”
“Cut me some slack, Gremlin! I’m 39 years old, I have a graduate’s degree and I can’t start a vacuum cleaner!”
She reaches right over and touches this thing that doesn’t look like any sort of a button I’ve ever seen before and the confounding Rubik’s Cube of domesticity cranks right up. “I appreciate that, but it won’t cut you any slack. You and your sister quit ratting each other out. I won’t be able to hear you over the vacuum anyway. Oh, but before you go, how do you make that bottom part go down on the floor so you can—ah, thanks.”
Naturally—being a lawyer and all—I’m not above a little bribery. There are days that are so rotten in the sibling department that I have no choice but to throw a little enticement into the arena if I have any hope of sparing what little sanity I have left. You know, the whole “If You’re Good, Mama Will Let You” thing. The part that really sucks is that you have to be able to follow through if the little buzzards don’t comply. Sure, you really wanted to see that movie, but Baby Belle 2 wouldn’t quit pointing her butt at Baby Belle 1’s face...
Of course, the most daring bit of sibling rivalry management I have ever heard of comes from—hands down—the best mother I have ever had the privilege of knowing. It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how wonderful a parent you are, kids are still kids and brothers and sisters are going to fight.
My friend also happens to have 2 girls about the age of my Baby Belles, but her girls are 2 years apart while mine are 4. She was getting ready for her youngest child’s birthday party at her house and the kids were going at it non-stop. The kids were tattling and nit-picking and it didn’t matter what my friend said or did, it was only getting worse and worse.
Finally, my friend reached her boiling point. She took the girls and put them in the middle of the kitchen and said, “Okay, you have one minute. Punch it out. No face shots. Go!”
Well, once the girls got over the shock of their mother telling them to duke it out, they did just that. (It bears repeating that her husband was right outside on the porch and heard what was going on, but he was afraid to go inside.)
When their minute was up, the spent sisters were forced to sit across from each other on the floor of the den and take turns telling each other things they loved about their sister for one whole hour.
My only fear is that, if I tried that approach, there would be nothing left for the second portion of the program. Bless my sweet little things.