Summertime, and the living is…easy?

Today is the last day of the school year. I’m so looking forward to summer break. I’m so dreading it.

My sons are on two different schedules (one half-day kindergartner and two middle schoolers). Because of some…ahem…”issues” I’ve ended up driving them to and fro rather than putting them on the bus I paid for with my property taxes fueled by the gas I paid for–but I digress. They’ve had track, band, academic team, robotics, music lessons–all of those things I swore when I wasn’t yet a parent that I wouldn’t let them get into so that they could “just be children.”

As a result, most days of the week I haven’t had more than two or three consecutive, uninterrupted hours to do anything. My days are as broken up as the stale spaghetti noodles I poured into the pot for dinner last night.

Writing is actually easier when they are all at home. Or it should be. The older two (in theory) can feed, clothe, bathe and watch the youngest. Everyone can call 9-1-1 and the pizza guy. I should be able to lock myself in my office with my laptop and my imaginary friends and enemies in my imaginary town.

Before I was a parent, I chose myself a good man. A mellow man. A quiet man. A peaceful, calming person. The Spawn of Stevens look like him. They make his gestures and repeat phrases that have come straight from their father’s mouth.

SO WHAT IS WITH ALL OF THE BICKERING? Zom-GEE!

They LOVE each other. We had them so that long after we’re gone, they’d have each other. They cuddle together on the floor beside the bed when they’re asleep (because sleeping bags are always more fun than beds.) They drown army men together in the sandbox (which is full of mosquito-larva-infested water). So why won’t they stop with the bickering?

I make them stay on separate floors. Behind separate doors. I fine them for speaking to each other (I’ve made back most of their allowances). I make them hug and kiss one another when they fight. Nothing, but nothing creates peace.

Advise me, those of you who’ve been trapped shared halcyon summers with your offspring, the sun glinting on their hairs as they frolicked in slo-mo through non-wasteful sprinklers. I need you. My children’s lives may depend on you.

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17 Responses

  1. My comment won’t help at all. šŸ™‚ but my parents tried to force a closeness between my sister and me. We fought all the time. I remember one fight in grade school that involved beating each other with Barbie dolls! They made my sister (older by 21 months) take me with her when she and her friends did things (through jr. high!) We slept in the same bed until we moved to a new house when I was in the 7th grade. We took family vacations. We had similar clothes. Neither of us was the “favored” child. But here’s the reality….

    You CAN’T force a friendship.

    And now here we are…both over 50 and we still aren’t that close. I go months without speaking to her. it’s not that I’m mad at her and that’s why I don’t call. I don’t call because I don’t have anything to talk about with her. Of course I love my sister but if given a choice between spending the weekend with her or my girlfriends, I’d pick my girlfriends.

    You’d think at only 21 months separating us we’d have so much in common but no, not really.

    So, no advice to help except separate floors and closed doors. šŸ™‚

    • Okay, Cynthia. I’m going to put my fingers in my ears and go “LALALALA.” But I do take away that I won’t let the boys get Barbies. The foam swords are hard enough.

  2. Middle schoolers are at the age where they’re testing the waters, trying to figure out who they are, who’s smarter, who’s weaker, who’s dominant, etc. The dominant ones are going to assert their power. The weaker ones are going to search for loopholes that allow them to win sometimes. Bickering with a sibling is a natural means for them to explore these issues in a safe environment.
    I say, let ’em bicker (as long as it doesn’t become physical and no one gets hurt). But make them go outside–EVERY TIME–so you don’t have to listen to it. If you’re constantly referreeing, they’ll continue to let you do that. They need to learn to work things out on their own and to let some things slide.

    • Rewarding good days with a fun activity is useful, too, and then that period can get extended. If a full day proves to be too long, start small. “No bickering for the next hour gets you (insert fun thing here)”

    • We have great outside space. I’m totally going with “Take it outside!”

  3. My kids get along pretty well, so maybe I’m no help either. But there are squabbles from time to time. The older is old enough that we can get meta in the aftermath; “You are very skilled verbally; Brother is different. So when you hassle him verbally, what do you *think* he going to do?” (If you answered “punch your pompous a**,” gold laundry basket for you!) Both of them are old enough to explore the self-centered angle: “How do you feel when this happens? Do you think this was a good strategy? What different thing could you do?” (and relentlessly focus on the youyouyou, not what brother did).

  4. I don’t think it can be stopped. I had a single mom who worked and I was in charge of my brother. We fought like CRAZY. One day the neighbor came over because she heard me scream that I was going to kill him.

    But here’s the thing. We never understood why my mother was so bothered by our bickering. It had nothing to do with her. And it didn’t harm us. We live too far apart to be as close as we could be, but we have an excellent relationship now.

    So I agree with Pam, let ’em bicker. If it’s simple stuff, don’t even bother trying to analyze/teach (bigger issues might make that necessary/valuable, though). I say let ’em fight even if it gets physical. My physical fighting with my brother stopped when I tried to hit him with a garlic press and cut my own hand open, instead. My husband stopped throwing chairs at his brother when one went through the wall. šŸ™‚ They’ll learn their own lessons! (Caveat: If they’re hurting the little one, that’s different.)

    Good luck!

    • I’ve already employed the “take it outside” strategy today. “So we can beat each other up?” My oldest asks. “As long as it’s outside.”
      The wine canoe is calling me šŸ™‚

  5. One more comment…My husband and his brother fought like rabid dogs growing up. When I first married my DH, I didn’t think he liked his brother! BUT now they are quite close. We don’t live in the same town but they meet and fish together or his brother will come here and stay with us.

    Bottom line – YOU can’t do anything. Let them fight. Send them outside. Keep the sharp knives out of their hands. šŸ™‚

  6. Oh, the joys of parenthood. LOL I feel like a yo-yo most days, waiting for school to be out so some of it will calm down. But then the boredom starts and it’s a whole new story. My girls are older now and get along pretty well. My son just stays out of their way. Oddly, they don’t even mind if the other tags along when they go out with friends. Unusual for high schoolers I think. But when they were litte it was a different story. I tried everything so I don’t know what worked to bring them to this point. I’m just thanking my lucky stars they didn’t kill each other. LOL

    We used to have them sit in the middle of the living room, far enough so they couldn’t touch each other, and then stare at each other. Drove them crazy and usually ended up with them laughing. Listening to them moan and groan drove me crazy though. LOL The take it outside sounds much better. And the wine canoe! šŸ™‚

  7. *coughs*
    *clears through*

    THANK THE LORD I ONLY HAVE ONE CHILD.

    *whew*

    Sorry doll. best of luck to you!

  8. […] just, boys will be boys, maybe? Or maybe Keri Stevens described it best last week with needing advice on boys in the summer and their […]

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