It was late and they were fighting again. Jack knows just how to push Lucy's buttons to get that shriek out of her. I try to ignore it most of the time because that little girl can sure hold her own. This time however, she cried, it was the hurt feeling cry. It seemed the usual little sister and big brother bother had a little mean thrown into the mix. It was a sign something needed to be said.
"Jack, buddy, I think you've reached your limit my friend. I gotta take some Wii time away tomorrow." I said.
There was a look of instant panic. It's kind of rare at our house to have an actual punishment, lots of logical consequences but this, the Wii, it was a biggie. He started crying and it soon escalated into a full out tantrum. A tantrum at the age of six. I was kind of stunned. I started questioning my decision a little since the response was so strong and so rare for this kid. I guess maybe it had been building for awhile and a release was in order. There were so many big feelings and that can be tricky sometimes. I wasn't sure what to do but then instinct took over.
"Jack, do you know what can happen sometimes when you are getting into trouble a lot?" I said.
"No, what?" He said while trying to catch his breath in between the sobs.
"You can forget that you are loved. And the truth is, when lots of trouble is around it's a time when you need love the most. Do you think that could be happening to you right now?" I said.
His little face kind of changed. His eyes crinkled and his own hurt feeling cry started.
"Yeah! I need more love mom, I need more love." He threw his arms around me and buried his head in my chest and sobbed big, heavy sobs.
"I know Jackie, I can tell. And I know you are a kind boy with a good heart, I know this about you, it's okay. And papa is away and he is the one who snuggles you so much, I think you are missing that too." He nodded and we sat together in the moment.
We climbed in bed, all four kids. My arms too full with babies to even hold him but he snuggled up against me. He fell asleep with a red and puffy face and a quiet sigh, the drama behind us. I closed my own eyes knowing we would all wake up to less Wii, but maybe a little more love.
Any tricks for the big feelings in your house? Do share in the comments.
As I write this entry, my dear children are having a vigorous debate where Child A is asserting the logic of another child's actions while Child B is deeply mired in the emotional content of the incident in question. I'm not sure either kid is making any sense to the other but the intensity to the disagreement is making me wish I could make a backdoor exit to the nearest coffee shop.
I've been practicing staying out of these kinds of fights lately, since the conflict centers mostly around fundamental differences in how each child views the world. Child A sees most problems through the lens of choices and consequences, while Child B prefers to examine perceived intentions and emotional impact. If I choose to engage, I'll be saying more about my own preferences than the truth of the matter. Fact is, there's no problem on this earth that can't stand to be examined from a variety of angles. Our best solutions come when we consider love and logic, facts and feelings. Or so my better self tells me when all I want to do is lay down the law and institute my point of view as the-way-it-really-is, no questions asked.
So I bite my tongue and listen as each child educates the other on their own particular point of view. Ten tortuous minutes later, the exchange sounds something like this:
Child A: I'm just saying that I don't think it's fair for you to be angry especially when he wasn't choosing to hurt you. Didn't he already apologize a hundred times?
Child B: You mean you think I should forgive him?
Child A: Yes, I do.
Child A then went on to support the forgiveness argument with data I found more than a little sketchy, but Child B was satisfied. Child C was forgiven and the argument came to a natural conclusion. End of discussion.
Next up for the future conflict mediator and her boundary savvy little brother: Whether you can say you believe in Jesus and still think he's dead. I think I'll skip that Starbucks now and go straight upstairs and take a nap.
What's your stance on sibling disagreements? Do you step in? Stay out? Send yourself to your room as soon as possible? I'd love to hear what your personal rules of engagement are in the comments below.
Summer was almost over by the time I started catching on to conversations like this:
Carter: "How much money is there?"
Madeleine: "I don't know, let me check the vault."
Carter: "Okay, just make sure you put it in the shared account."
Shared account? Vault? What's going on here?
They finally confessed they had decided to pool resources for some time (hence the "shared" account) in hopes of crossing some items off their Christmas list. Santa? Who needs Santa when we can cat sit and dog sit and bird sit our way to kid toy/game heaven a month before the elves leave the station?
A few more months of saving and scheming and working and taking every stray penny that fell on the floor, they were able to make their goal and take their ziploc bag full of dollars and bills to the store of their choosing to make a very hefty purchase.
I won't go into the details here, but the bottom line? My kids shocked the socks off me by making a grownup size acquisition on a kid size budget--and neither one of them gets an allowance. I really think the only way it was able to happen was because they kept parental involvement to an absolute minimum and did it in a way that made sense to them.
Here are a few ingredients of their success. Feel free to run these by your school-age kids to see which ideas match their own style of sibling-powered saving and spending.
Divvy up responsibilities. Madeleine did the bulk of the work, but was sometimes tempted to bail on the plan and go to the movies instead. Carter had the discipline of a drill sergeant and kept that wild-spirited Madeleine on track. Not one dollar slipped through his hands.
Spread the word. Carter asked me fifteen times a day if I had any ideas about how he could make money while Madeleine offered to dog sit anyone's dog in the neighborhood at our summer block party. Our neighbors knew if there were any little jobs appropriate for kids, ours would be into it.
Remember the mantra: Sharing now means sharing later. I asked Madeleine why she decided to go in with Carter when she clearly had more earning power. "Well," she answered. "I don't think I could have done it without Carter. Having Carter made it easier. And now we both have the same right to play on that thing. It wouldn't be as much fun if it was only mine and then Carter was bugging me to use it and I had to decide to share or not. This way it belongs to both of us." Fair enough.
Do you remember doing similar projects when you were a kid? Do you think your kids could do what you did then, now? What's your take on kids buying things for themselves?
I heard them upstairs talking with a door between them. Technically Nathan was screaming but Ethan was talking.
E: Hey, Buddy. It's time to take a nap.
E: Buddy. Even I am going to take a nap today.
E: Nate, do you know what you can do?
There is a pause in the wailing.
E: Do you know that you can do? If you don't want to sleep (dropping his voice), you could just play in your room. Sometimes that's what I do. When Mom tells me to go to sleep but I don't want to, I just play. You could do that too.
Bless his heart, the wailing started up again. I guess Nathan decided that he preferred his freedom to anarchy. But at least now he knows his options for next time. I guess that is why little brothers have big brothers, right?