“We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it” (Dwight Eisenhower)
Sometimes people tell me I am a good mom. I don’t know about that. I guess I have done okay, but I tend to think I got really lucky with my kids and they got really lucky with their dad and I just went along for the ride.
But I know one thing I absolutely laid the law on when my kids were little: fighting. It just simply wasn’t allowed (before you scoff, know that my kids have confessed to a few punches and hits when Mom wasn’t home, but they will also tell you those were exceptions, not rules).
I have heard many times, both in my years as a teacher, youth minister’s wife, and as a just plain person, that sibling fights are just an unavoidable evil, that all siblings punch and pinch and push and tease and torment. I know my brother and I did.
I had two brothers: Lance, who was two and a half years younger than me, and Chad, who was six years younger. I never really fought much with Chad. He was just too much smaller, it didn’t seem fair. Besides, he was sweet. But Lance? We fought like little heathens. Well, I say little. I remember digging my long fingernails into his forearm to draw blood when I was driving the van and he was in the passenger seat. We hit each other, pushed each other, called each other names. I even lost my temper and threw a knife across the room at him once. It embedded itself in the door where his belly had been just seconds before and hung there, vibrating with force and calling me back to my senses. I have told you before, mine was not the most peaceful of homes.
When I started my own family, I absolutely knew I did not want that dynamic. So as Hilary and Travis began to disagree, I just told them there would be no hitting. They could argue with quiet voices but they could not call names. They could not resort to violence. What I discovered was that this training meant I had to be the referee for the disagreements. I could not leave them to sort it out without supervision. Notice I said supervision, not intervention. I still let them find the solutions. Sometimes I coaxed them into the most fair or compassionate resolution, but I didn’t dictate. Kids don’t learn from an adult laying down laws.
Libby was a little tougher. If you know her, you get it. She is vivacious and strong-willed and competitive. Fortunately, her older brother and sister stayed the course.
There has been bickering in this house. Want to test that? Ask Hilary or Libby to tell you who takes the most clothes from her sister’s closet.
But my kids are friends with each other. I love having all three of them in the house because laughter is abundant in those times. They miss each other when they don’t get to see each other for a few days. And that’s way better than how my brothers and I ended up- one dead alone in a hotel room of a drug overdose and the other telling me he does not want any contact with me.
Maybe you pounded on your siblings and you managed to stay friends. Me? I am glad I stood, however imperfectly, for peace. It may be the thing I am most proud of in all my mothering. Teach your kids how to disagree in love. The world could use more of that.