Since I’ve been writing about elder care as a form of parenting, I’ve become somewhat detached from my “real” children’s issues. I haven’t been paying attention to much these days. Some may say that I’ve become a slacker. Others may say that I’ve come down to Earth. I’m normal now.
Apparently, my two daughters are normal, too. They’ve started arguing like little litigators. And they’re LOUD.
The older daughter wants to be left alone (younger daughter does not). Older daughter wants to listen to One Direction (younger daughter hates the group), watch reruns of Full House (younger daughter hates the Olson twins), clomp around in my shoes (younger daughter hates that older daughter can wear a ladies size 7), and flip the pages of a million books saved on an iPad (younger daughter hates that older daughter gets techie toys now).
And so they fight. And they fight. And they fight. And they love to fight.
I separate them. Go to your corners and wait for the bell.
They run right back to the middle of the ring and pick up where they left off.
I send them to different floors in the house. One child sits at the top of the stairs and stares down at the other child sitting on the bottom step.
Their twin beds are separated by a line of stuffed toys marked as a “DO NOT CROSS” barrier. But when I crack the door open at 3AM to make sure both of them are still in the room, I find both of them in one bed, stuck together like Velcro monkeys.
But the frequency (of arguments and of volume) grates on my nerves. I’m so worried about my aunt, clients and deadlines, a new children’s book currently undergoing illustration, my husband’s stress level, and a few hundred other things, that the sound of their bickering makes my blood boil. We all can’t go nuts at the same time.
So, I’ve decided on a strict punishment: The girls have to work out their differences…through chores.
When the smallest argument starts to fester, I warn them of the consequences: Keep it up and you’ll have something to do.
The first time I threatened them, they didn’t believe me. So, for the next 47 minutes (according to the clock on the microwave), they were behind a closed door in a guest room turned toy room, sorting Legos, Barbie doll furniture and Little Pet Shop animals.
The next night, they sorted summer clothes according to size.
The next afternoon, they folded towels and matched white socks.
The next morning, they swept kicked-out kitty litter and critter bedding.
If they continue to pick on each other, I’ll have the cleanest, straightest house in town.
But the point isn’t to have servants. The point is to make the girls realize that they have to live together; therefore, they have to work together. Of course, they yelled at each other for a while over who had to do what and who wouldn’t be told what to do. Then, there was silence … except for the clicking and clacking of toys being tossed into bins. After all…I wasn’t going to let them out until they stopped battling each other.
Other parents have alternate ways of settling sibling spats. And if it works, stick with it. But aside from discovering the peaceful tranquility of an organized house, I hope my daughters learn that some of their petty differences simply need to be swept under the rug.