Do you know what a worldwide pandemic and nationwide lockdown has provided me with lots of?
All day. everyday. Three of my four people telling the me the list of sins the other siblings have committed. It sounds something like this…
“Mom he looked at me with a mean face”
“Mom I can’t hear cause she’s yelling”
“Mom she won’t leave me alone”
“Mom he won’t give me alone time”
“Mom she hit me”
“Mom he closed the door on me”
“Mom, he’s dancing and I want to dance alone” (didn’t make this up)
“Mom, she told me I am not good at basketball”
“Mom he started the show with out me”
And the list just keeps going. Too much togetherness coupled with cancelled activities, time without friends, and just plain old boredom has created a hostile living environment. We have bickering before the waffle has even emerged from the toaster. With a baby on one hip my most muttered Covid phrase has been “figure it out” shortly followed by “not like that.” It’s amazing how when tensions are high the smallest offense can set off the alarm.
What frustrates me the most about all the bickering, besides the constant background noise that sounds like cats in a metal trashcan, is that they are missing out on the joy of the relationship. I came from a big family, three brothers to be exact, I remember the utter annoyance I felt at brother b when brother c took his side and I remember the rage the boiled when my best attempts to annoy were met by a calm demeanor. I remember it all but I laugh about it retrospect because I love my brothers. My childhood was dreamy and we still jokingly call each other the stupid names we made up just to piss each other off. I want to whisper through clenched teeth at my kids “one day you guys will realize the gift you have in each other.” One day I pray this bickering will be distant memories we laugh about when we weren’t so mature and weren’t able to take a break.
One of the major hot button issues that seems to be a recurring theme in my kids quarreling matches is just how different the other is. Briggs wants Claire to listen more and talk less. Claire wants briggs to dance without abandon. We all want Colbie to pick her self up off the floor and stop crying long enough to understand what she’s saying. Benji wants everyone to go to school. I agree with Benji.
The point is that the only thing my kids continually agree is they all need mom and she’s standing right there and if she doesn’t answer they should say it again…but louder. Besides that it’s all up for discussion.
I pray though that one day they all come to appreciate just how different they are. One day Claire will see Briggs need for order and quiet as his gift he brings to our loud table. Briggs will see Claire’s constant imagination as the push we all need to keep dreaming. Colbie will remind us all to laugh hard and often I imagine. I think we will all stare in wonder at Benji every time he smiles (oh to be the baby). The point is one day when we are all a little more mature (myself included) we will be able to see this beautiful quilt God has been knitting in our family. We will appreciate the other colors he added to a square and perhaps the darkness in our own. We will see that our differences don’t divide us they make us more complete.
I have wondered recently if God is feeling the same way, like he wishes we could all see the gift we have in each other instead of the divisive rage that has been created by our differences. I realize this is a very trivialized version of the current political, racial, and religious polarization thats happening every day but I wondered lately if our very need to rally together is being damaged because we are being caught up in our differences.
Our current solution for when our kids fight is to have them sit on the bottom step arms around each other and talk through what is hurting them. We have noticed that when they focus on what happened we don’t get anywhere but when we ask them to talk about how they feel we can get to the bottom of it. Ben is credited for this stroke of parenting genius and it’s far more effective than any other method we have tried. Sitting arm in arm and talking about your hurt is hard to ignore. The blame game throws up defenses but vulnerability about our feelings when the other party is listening… well that shows our humanity.
I think we all need a moment on the stairs right now. A moment to look each other in the eyes, arms around one another, and hear the hurt. It seems like we would get farther linking arms than hurling insults and blame.