Somewhere along the way, Bill and I abandoned the need for a happy marriage. It’s just too much pressure. Instead, we’ve embraced the idea of happy marriage moments. To really feel those moments of connection and understanding, recording those flashes when our hopes and dreams of what being married would be actually coincide with the reality. Then letting those moments feed our souls and govern our stories of what our life together is really like.
I’ve been struggling recently with our children’s relationship with each other. It is loaded for me. A Newsweek article in Fall of 2006 nicely summed up my reading in which research shows that sibling relationships are foundational in our perception of who we are in the world. Core beliefs about ourselves that govern our personal and work relationships for the rest of our lives generate from the hours spent playing blocks on the living room for with our brothers and sisters. Over the past 4 years I’ve noticed that my kids’ willingness to play cooperatively together or beat on each other seems to go in spurts, not surprising related to their own developmental surges. Their advances in locomotion, conversation and intellectual skills almost always causes crisis in our home as they re-work who they are in relationship to each other and what to do about it.
We’re going through one of these rediscovery periods right now. Having been seriously working at our new developmental programs for about 3 months now, both children are changing noticeably. Despite having been through this almost every 6 months as we get new programs prescribed, I was blindsided as levels of strife in our days heightened this past week.
Two days ago, we had a group of friends around for dinner. Theo, who is currently obsessed with chess, set up a game to play with one of the daddies. Chess is beyond Rosie at this point, and she is wild with frustration and resentment about missing out on the fun. After days of being left out of the game, seeing him play with adult friends and being left on the side to watch was more than she could bear. With one mighty swipe, she knocked the board clear and shoved Theo across the floor. His reply, after days of putting up with her messing up his games and listening to her scream, was to start pounding on her.
After the fleeting thought of “what kind of parent do my friends think I am?”, I was washed with fear that I’m raising two little monsters who are going to abuse and destroy each other at this very early age, creating two broken people who would never be able to form meaningful relationships with others or hold meaningful jobs and ruining their lives forever.
In contrast, this morning while I was cooking breakfast Theo and Rosie built a fort out of couch cushions. They worked out where to put the fort, how to place the cushions, just the right way to hang the blankets. They each also added their own touches. Theo determined where the guns would go and while they constructed the perfect gun holders, Rosie initiated conversations about what to name her baby and where to change said baby’s diaper.
It was a sweet moment for me to overhear. One that warmed my heart and promised me that they are having a great time together and learning how to make space in their worlds for the whole of each other. Which of course will transfer to their lifelong ability to reach out to others and create fulfilling relationships that will bring peace and joy as they live to ripe old ages.
I have myself on a veritable mommy roller coaster. What I’m trying desperately to keep in mind right now is two things. One is the idea that getting punch in the belly by your sister or brother doesn’t actually hurt that much – the long-term lessons learned from the blow have more to do with how mommy or daddy handled the situation than the physical pain. The second is the notion that focusing on the moments of joy and understanding in my children’s relationship not only helps them see themselves as a brother and sister who love and enjoy each other (most of the time), but also helps create space for more of those happy sibling moments.