Posts Tagged ‘siblings’

The Bright Side of Sibling Struggles

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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If I were a great parent, I would have taken appropriate action when my son told my daughter to shut up. I didn’t take any action, which means I’m not a great parent or a very good referee.

The problem is that my ability to see shades of grey is magnified when it comes to my children.siblings

I didn’t like my son saying “shut up,” but I also knew that “please be quiet,” wouldn’t have gotten him anywhere. And where he wanted to go was away from his sister’s loud and persistent singing.

Don’t get me wrong.

My daughter is a wonderful singer. She was born singing. When she started daycare, the teachers said they always knew where Kendall was because they simply followed her song.

Not much has changed over the past decade, which is exactly why Shep reached his limit and  yelled “shut up.”

His sister, on the other hand, had every reason to be belting songs at the top of her lungs. She  has an audition for a musical  on Saturday and she was trying out every piece of music she thought would be appropriate.

Since I understood both of them,  I couldn’t take sides. What I could do was  sympathize with both of them, and that’s the path I chose to take.

It may not have been the direction for which parenting experts advocate, and it certainly didn’t do much for creating peace in my house. But I like to think it provided my children with a glimpse of the real world.

In the real world, people have different priorities, and sometimes those priorities conflict. We have to figure out a way to live together anyway.

In the real world, we know that music  may touch the soul, but the same tune affects everyone differently. We have to let others dance to their own beat just as we dance to ours.

And in the real world, maintaining general happiness in life requires deciding when to fight for what you want and when to walk away. The best decisions are the ones that take into account the perspective of others.

I may not have given my children the gift of having the world’s most wise or  patient mother, but I did give my kids what I consider one of the world’s greatest gifts.  I gave them a sibling with whom they have many of the same conflicts they will soon have to face with roommates, co-workers, spouses and maybe even their own children.

And I also like to think that someday, in the distant future, they might  actually appreciate that gift.

The Understudy

Monday, June 2, 2014
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What’s more challenging than playing the snare drum in an honors music recital before a packed audience, having a part in a musical before the entire school, traveling without a parent on a patrol trip, earning a certificate for faithful attendance, making the Principal’s List for straight A’s, receiving an acknowledgement from the President of the United States for academic achievement, getting promoted to the sixth grade, and turning 11 following that elementary school graduation?

Being the eight-year-old sister who has to watch it.

It’s a tough time to be a second grader (correction: rising third grader). It’s a quiet time in childhood when nothing spectacular goes on. With the exception of being toothlessly cute, it’s a boring phase worsened by the fireworks that accompany every move a fifth grader (correction: rising sixth grader) makes.

It really has been All Ava All the Time.  Maryn has been a respectful spectator to the celebrations and coming-of-age occasions that shine a special light on her older sister.  Well, until last night when Maryn hauled off and smacked her.

Mike and I were downstairs engrossed in the final episode of Mad Men when we heard grumblings in the upstairs bedroom.  One voice got higher.  A second voice got louder.  Something crashed.  Someone cried.

We raced each other up the stairs and burst through the doorway of the girls’ bedroom.  The fingerpointing had begun.  Ava held her face.  Maryn held her stomach.

They had traded blows like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.

“WHAT HAS GOTTEN INTO YOU TWO?” bellowed Mike.  Not to be outdone, I chimed in with my own hysterics.

“WHO’S HURT?!”

The girls stepped on top of each other’s stories in an attempt to make their injuries sound more fatal.

“I got slapped!” Ava cried.

“I….got….hit….in the….stom….ach!”  Maryn gasped.

Mike and I took our competitors to the corners of the ring.  Maryn climbed onto my bed and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand.  She sucked air and wailed some more.

After eight rounds of “And Then What Happened”, the fight was declared a draw.  It started over a pillow.  It ended with the loss of electronics.

“You cannot act like this,” I told Maryn as she sniffed away tears crawling down her cheeks.  “If you can’t solve the problem with words, then you come to your dad and me and let us decide.  But you have no right — no right — to physically hurt each other.”

She sat quietly, straining to hear the interrogation across the hall.

“You’re sick of her, aren’t you?” I began.  Maryn looked at me, surprised.  “She’s gotten all the attention for weeks, and you can’t stand it, can you?”

She shook her head no.  “You’re tired of hearing how great she is, how pretty she is, how well she’s done, how far she’ll go….am I right?”

She nodded her head yes.

“You’re mad.  You’re jealous.  Am I right about that, too?”

She nodded her head yes again.

“And your time will come.  I promise you that.  You’re going to have everything she has, and then some, because you’re the baby.  You’re our last child.  All of this will come to an end once you become a fifth grader.  Childhood wraps up with you.”

She wiped her nose again and bobbed her feet against the mattress.

“She’s good at a lot of things, but so are you,” I continued, opening the drawer of the nightside table.  “Sure, she can play the xylophone and she can do The Cup Song, but you…you’re good at art!”

I pulled out a self-portrait that Ava had drawn in the second grade.  “Look at this!” I tapped the picture colored with crayons and edged in smudged #2 pencil.  “This kid doesn’t have a neck!”

A chuckle escaped from Maryn’s throat.

“And here! Look! She drew Ringo,” I said, pulling out a sketch of our silver tabby cat.  “Have you ever seen an animal with eyes that far apart?”

She laughed harder.

So it’s unorthodox to poke fun at one kid to make the other one feel better.  But I had to lighten the moment.  Sure, our rising middler schooler is good at lots of things and she’s been decorated for it, but her life is about to change.  She’s not going to be such a big fish in a small pond.  She’s going to be a minnow in an ocean of sharks and killer whales.

“And when you’re in third grade — intermediate…no longer primary school — she’s going to wish for everything that you still have. She’ll no longer have extra playtime outside, Halloween parades, Valentine parties, COSI assemblies, or trips to the Clay Center.  Those days are over.”

Don’t be envious, I preached.  Every daughter has her day. A round of applause for one child may be a standing ovation for another.  And as hard as it is to play the role of little sister, the sidekick is often the one who steals the show.

 

 

 

 

 

The Day I Ate Dog Food

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
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dogfoodWhen I was four years old, my brother Sean and his friend Gusty convinced me to eat dog food.

The food didn’t look anything like the plain Purina Dog Chow my family fed our mutt, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown’s food was hard and brown and looked completely unappealing.

Moses, the yellow lab who belonged to our neighbors, ate something that looked far more interesting, It, like Charlie Brown’s food, came out of a bag. But in addition to dry pellets, there were softer chunks of some kind of strange, reddish substance. In my four-year old opinion, Moses was getting filet mignon while Charlie Brown was getting hamburger.

I must have expressed such thoughts to my brother, who immediately cooked up a scheme to get me to eat dog food. He shared it with Gusty, the human boy who lived with Moses.

I wish I could say they took forever to wear me down. I wish I could say they bribed me. I even wish I could say they threatened me. Those would all make a better story and would make me appear smarter than I apparently was.

I was at Gusty’s house playing with his sister Anni when he asked if we wanted a snack.

Anni said she wasn’t hungry, but I was always up for food.

“We’ve been eating Moses’ food,” Gusty said.

I must have looked skeptical, because my brother quickly added, “It’s actually really good. You should try some.”

That’s all it took. They brought me the dog bowl and told me to take a handful. I did.

That was by far the worst snack I have ever eaten, but I refused to let on. I don’t know why I pretended, but I did. As the boys and Anni stood watching  me, I ate. And as I crunched, I asked the boys if they were going to eat too. They said they were full.

It was only days later, when word leaked out to other children in the neighborhood, that I realized I’d been the butt of a cruel joke. The embarrassment grew  in me like weeds during the summer months. The only way I could get rid of the weeds was to start distrusting people.

I’ve had 43 years to get over the incident and learn to trust when I should and to distrust when appropriate. But looking back, I wonder about those small moments that change children forever and shift the way they view  the world. I wonder if trying to protect our children too much prevents them from learning tough lessons.

I’ll never know.

What I do know is that memories have a strange way of resurfacing in our lives.

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I adopted our first dog. There was no debate over his name; I simply made a decision.

We named the dog Gusty.

It seemed appropriate, and, for the record, our beloved Gusty lived 16 years. During that time, he ate pounds and pounds of dog food.

These are a few of my favorite things

Monday, December 2, 2013
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my book

The girls at Taylor Books with my first title, “Kat Tales: Stories of a house…broken” (2012).

Before Thanksgiving break, my family decided that we’d stay put for the holidays.  No unnecessary trips to restaurants, no shopping and no afternoons at the theater.  Instead, we’d stay home, cook for ourselves and watch Netflix.

We introduced the girls to a lot of classics, such as Rear Window and Roman Holiday.  One night, we watched one of my favorites, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  I had to explain most of Truman Capote’s best lines to Ava, who seemed confused that Manhattan socialite, Holly Golightly, was really a country bumpkin named Lula Mae Barnes.  When Ava is older, I’ll explain the “Is she or isn’t she?” question that all the men asked each other.  Was Holly authentic, or was she putting on an act to hide something?

Yet, isn’t everyone a little phony in some way?

When Holly ran up the steps of her New York apartment, I noticed that it seemed to be connected to a building that serves as the home base for another favorite film:  You’ve Got Mail.  Meg Ryan’s character and e-mail persona, “Shopgirl” lives in a beautiful place that looks identical to the one next to Holly’s.  (Perhaps I watched way too much TV this weekend).

Whereas Breakfast at Tiffany’s questions who we are and what we’ve experienced, You’ve Got Mail asks us to question where we’re going. What are we supposed to do with this life of ours, and how are we supposed to make an indentation in the lives of others? What’s our purpose when our feet hit the floor in the morning?  How do we help make the world go ’round?

I love You’ve Got Mail for many reasons, from the banter between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to the fantasy of owning a children’s bookstore.  When my daughters ask me what my dreams are, I have to admit that I don’t have many.  But the one thing I always wanted was to own a store like my grandmother. She ran a ladies’ dress shop that had a coffee shop attached, named for my mother.  “Betty’s” was the place where my mother and aunt grew up, serving customers a hot cup of something and a muffin of some sort, and then wrapping up their pretties to be worn someplace else.  I’ve always wanted a place like that, but for whatever reason, I never pursued the path.  The Mommyhood’s Katy Brown and You’ve Got Mail’s Kathleen Kelly have something else in common.  Both of us, the real and the make believe, still miss our mothers so much it sometimes hurts to breathe.

When I was watching You’ve Got Mail for what had to be the 1,000th time, I also noticed how much The Little Shop Around the Corner resembles our city’s Taylor Books.  With black shelves, patterned flooring and twinkle lights in the children’s section, the store feels like the place that I coulda/shoulda had.  But since my dream store is already taken, I guess I’ll have to settle for the next best thing, and that’s seeing my books in the vintage displays.

new bookIf you missed the recent Daily Mail article written by Andrea Lammon, I published my first children’s book this year.  It’s the story of fraternal twin boys, Sellie and Sam, who suffer from identical problems.  The boys, approximately age 5, are scared of the dark and they often seek the comfort of Mom and Dad’s bed.  Separation anxiety is a central theme in this book, which was written for children with their parents’ problems in mind.  As I’ve said in a few interviews, my goal wasn’t to decide if co-sleeping or the concept of the family bed is a good or a bad idea.  My objective was to uncover the humor in the situation.  Like many ages, stages and phases of childhood (and parenthood), this too shall pass.  If a child wants to feel a little safer or a little closer by crawling under the covers, then by all means, share that pillow.   In time, our babies won’t even be in the same house with us, let alone down the hall.  Let alone on the few inches of mattress next to us.

I’m sure the book will stir some controversies of “giving in” and not practicing enough “tough love” that promotes independence.  And that’s fine.  I expect it.  But, in our house, scooting over to make room for two little girls — every now and then — hasn’t hurt anything or anyone. As the back cover states, we need to pick our battles. And this was one that Mike and I didn’t care to fight.  During the days of Sandy Hook school shooting news, there was no other place we wanted to be.  Sometimes, hanging on to our children a little tighter is more for our reassurance than it is theirs.

Watching old movies has served as a great escape from reality.  All of the silly running around and taking part in seasonal insanity hasn’t been missed.  But if I do start to suffer from a case of cabin fever,  you now know where you can find me.  I’ll be the woman wandering around a certain little shop around the corner pretending, like a bit of a phony, that the place belongs to me.

Do you want to take part in Cyber Monday? Look for “Kat Tales” and “Sellie and Sam” on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble websites. You can also order through the West Virginia Book Company’s link:

http://www.wvbookco.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=kattales

 

 

 

 

 

Moving On

Monday, September 2, 2013
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IMG_0089Friday, August 23

This afternoon, I was folding laundry on a piece of plywood that serves as a temporary countertop while our kitchen is being renovated.  I have to be careful not to snag good shirts on splintered wood, which leaves stab marks in the palms of my hands whenever I try to wipe crumbs off the surface.  But those wounds don’t hurt half as bad as watching a little girl grieve…for her sister.

Maryn walked into the room and wasn’t amused by my fight with a fitted bed sheet.  She crashed into my waist, wrapping herself in the fabric still warm from the dryer.

She began to cry.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.  This isn’t our dramatic child, so when she gets upset, we know it’s for a good reason.

“Ava won’t play with me.”

Where is she? I inquired.  And then I heard her.  She was on the iPad, FaceTiming a friend from school.  There were squeals and giggles that symbolized a close friendship between two tweenage girls.  A duo.  But three’s a crowd.

Maryn’s heart was breaking.  “She doesn’t want to play anything with me anymore,” she cried.

I walked over to the couch and awkwardly pulled Maryn onto my lap.  Her hot cheeks were soaked with tears.

“She played with you all summer.  Every single day,” I began.  “You got attached to her, didn’t you?”

She nodded.

“Then she started school and became the teacher’s helper, which means she doesn’t even ride with you anymore because she has to be there so early.”

She nodded again.

“Now, when she comes home from school, she goes to her room,” I continued.  “After a while, someone calls for her on the phone or the iPad, and she talks to them instead.  Am I right?” I asked.

She fell back into my shoulder and cried harder.

“And you miss her.”

I didn’t notice a gap between my girls once they were in school together.  Ava, age 10, and Maryn, age 7, have been inseparable since the day they were introduced.  Now, it’s the first of many breakups.

Ava is changing. I expected this. What I didn’t expect was Maryn’s grief. I never imagined her feeling so lost or so left out in our own home.  I was an only child, so I never had a brother or sister to play with. I never had anyone to idolize.  I never had that connection.

“What would you like to play?” I asked her.

“Anything,” she sobbed.  “Barbies.  School.  Anything.”

Maryn sniffed and wiped her nose on my shoulder. She breathed in hard and let out an exhausted sigh. A lump hardened in my throat.  She’s slowly losing her best friend, for a while I assume, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I lifted Maryn aside and told her I’d be back in a second.  Downstairs in my office, Ava was on the computer developing a PowerPoint presentation. (Hey — at least it’s school related FaceTime!).

Ava said goodbye to her friend when she saw my expression.

“What….?” she asked, sheepishly.

“Maryn is upstairs, crying, because she wants to play with you,” I told her.  “And she’s very sad because you haven’t been paying any attention to her lately.”

“Oh,” Ava said, her shoulders slumping.

“You’re getting older.  You’re in fifth grade.  You have your own friends and your own fun,” I continued.  “But she misses you, and all she wants is to have a little of your time.”

Ava sat there for a moment.  “Am I in trouble?” she asked.

No.  You’re in a different stage of life, I explained.  There’s no fault in that.  It’s just part of it.

But Maryn doesn’t understand.

“A half-hour would mean so much,” I prodded.

Ava nodded again and walked upstairs.  I heard her call Maryn’s name and then I heard two feet hit the hardwood floor and pound across the room.

That’s when I sat down in this chair, closed out of PowerPoint and opened up the blog site to write this post.  I had to capture the moment that my oldest child took another step forward, rather invisibly to her mother, who doesn’t understand sibling rivalry or sibling bond.  Yet, I envy those girls.  Even on their worst days of bickering and tattling, I envy their love.

Next August (possibly July), Ava will attend a different school.  She and Maryn won’t be together again until her senior year.  Then, it will be Ava’s turn to take the gigantic step away from home. Away from all of us. When this happens, I’ll be stationed at the same kitchen counter (which better be made of quartz by then), crying over a much lighter load of laundry.  But I feel certain that Maryn will be right there with me.

The sisterhood of the hand-me-down pants

Monday, August 26, 2013
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with maryn at school (3)

The apple dress would not be appreciated by the tie-dye girl.

The benefit of being an only child was getting new clothes and new shoes every season. Once high school rolled around, I had bypassed my mother’s size, so she was able to guard her well-stocked closet and chest of drawers. When the Taco Bell fat fell off in college (when I should’ve packed on the Freshman Fifteen), I was able to wear her pretties with pride, even though the dresses and skirts were too old for me.

But my little Maryn (age 7) is dressing out of her older sister’s closet because there’s no reason not to.  Ava (age 10) is a bright girl with an even brighter smile, but she’s…inactive.  There’s a kind word: inactive.  She doesn’t do anything, really, so her clothes stay in perfect shape. She wears them, hangs them and grows out of them.

So Maryn’s wardrobe is housed in Rubbermaid bins stacked on the floor of a miniscule closet. They’re carefully labeled in a Martha Stewart-esque manner:  6x. Small. Spring. Summer.

I admit that I buy better pieces for Ava than for Maryn because they’ll be handed down.  They have to last another tour of duty through second, third and fourth grades. The cute sweaters and cardigans haven’t worn out their woollies and deserve a second chance at keeping a little girl warm on a December day.  And seeing Maryn in these cute ensembles brings back sweet memories.

“I remember the apple dress,” I told her a few days ago.  “Ava wore that dress on the first day of kindergarten.  She was so nervous …”

Maryn looked down at the apple dress and stuffed her hands into the side pockets as if to rip them out of their seams.

She hates the apple dress.

She really hated the fisherman’s sweater that was so scratchy that her back looked like she had crawled under barbed wire.  And Maryn hated the green vest with the Golden Retriever on the front; a pink ribbon serving as the pup’s leash.  The Peter Pan collar of a white blouse acted like a starched military uniform.

She wore it once.  That means it was worn twice.

Maryn is the active child who turns white sneakers into brown loafers after one lap around Danner Meadow Park.  During an Easter egg hunt on the school’s grounds, she wore Ava’s blue dress and matching leggings to dive under swings to fight for purple plastic ovals filled with puffy stickers.  The dirt and grass stains never came out, but the truth did:  Maryn is not her sister’s twin.  She is wildly unique in every way, shape and form.

This summer, I took a break from the biographies I normally read and replaced them with teen titles to prepare myself for modern adolescent themes and adventures.  I bought The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, an ancient book — I know, and read up on the summer dramas of four girls who share a pair of magical jeans.  The denim pants fit each girl perfectly despite their differing measurements, a peculiarity that bonds the four of them through their individual triumphs and tragedies.

The book make me think critically (something I do too much of on a daily basis).  My daughters may share lives, but they couldn’t be more different. It’s wrong of me to try to pour Maryn into Ava’s mold.  Ava is long and lean, and on the straight and narrow path.  Maryn is petite and curvy, and on a twisty road that often makes her sick. Ava observes life and Maryn experiences it.  White sundresses aren’t for her.

This weekend, I unpacked more clothes labeled “7/8, Fall”.  I shook out each piece, revealing a story that went with the navy blue pea coat and creased khaki pants. I also pulled out the pink oxford, threaded with Ava’s cursive initials on the side pocket.  It couldn’t be handed down.

“Maryn, do you want to go shopping for some new things of your own?” I asked.  She bounced in the room wearing two different socks.

“Yes!” she shouted. “I’d like to have some little flowery skirts that have shorts under them so I can play outside.”

Did I hear her correctly?  Did the rough and tumble child just ask for little flowery skirts?

Well, well, well. How ’bout them apples?

 

 

Conflict of Interest

Monday, January 23, 2012
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Best frenemies. They love to fight.

I’m convinced that children have an internal clock that tells them when it’s time to start picking on each other — specifically, the end of a holiday break or the final days of summer vacation.  It’s as if they’ve had all the togetherness they can tolerate, and the annoyances start to multiply like fleas on a dog.

I watched my own children bicker and argue in the last 48 hours of their Christmas break, no longer intimidated by the Elf on the Shelf or the threat of every wrapped gift being given to Toys for Tots. No…these fluffy little sweethearts were out for blood and they were in it for the long haul.

“But Aaaavaaaa, you took my Barbie! That’s not yours! It’s miiiine!”

“Maryn took my whistle! But since her spit is in it, I don’t want it back, but now I don’t have a whistle!”

“That’s my DS, Ava! You have your own! You just want mine because it’s new!”

“Get off me, Maryn! Your feet are cold and I don’t want to be touched!”

And so on and so forth.

My typical reaction is to yell at them to stop fighting and to hand over whatever toy is the source of such outrage.  Occasionally, I’ll try humor as a means of diffusing their momentary hatred, singing “We Can Work it Out” by The Beatles.  But lately, I’ve become so weary living in a hostile territory that I’ve had to look to my husband for help, who simply echoes my demands word for word (yet he gets the desired result).  After repeat requests for back-up, his own exasperation with the situation seems to be geared more toward me.

“Didn’t you ever fight with someone when you were a kid?”

Uh, no.  I didn’t have brothers or sisters, and none of my cousins resided in the area.  Other kids lived nearby, but no one right next door.  Sometimes I’d tease our Siamese cat for fun, but 9 out of 10 times, the feline won and the female bled.

But that’s when I finally noticed the purple cow in the room.  I am an only child raising siblings. I know  nothing about “healthy” arguments, letting kids work out their own troubles, or defending myself for that matter.  I avoid conflict.  I hate confrontation of any kind, and I’ve discovered that I have a sensitivity to whining.  I can’t stand any type of noise that communicates friction. And, what’s most shocking is that our children are ages 8 and 5, and we’re just now entering the battle zone.  I feel rather unqualified to be standing on the front lines.

However, you may be sitting there reading along, thinking to yourself: “This poor woman doesn’t even have a pulse! She’ll never make it through the teenage years!”

Fighting over the phone.  Fighting over clothes and shoes.  Fighting over the bathroom. Fighting over the car.  Fighting over who goes out and who stays in. Fighting over who gets to have a friend over this weekend, and who has to wait until the next one.

I can imagine it, but I can’t relate to it.

Luckily, my husband had an older and a younger brother to deal with, so he’s particularly well-versed in how to drive a sibling absolutely crazy.  He likes to tell me stories about taking the “old road” to Florida — a two-day trip back then — sitting in the backseat of a station wagon (without seatbelts), elbowing each other in the ribs for fun.  There are long lists of ways to torture a younger brother, antics that make me wonder why I would want to marry such an indecent human being.

“I’m glad I didn’t know you back then,” I told him. “I wouldn’t have liked you one bit, and I guarantee I wouldn’t have gone on a date with you.”  (Well, that part isn’t quite true…).

It doesn’t take much to upset me, but it does take a tremendous amount of something to make me angry.  However, I’m so concerned that I’ll do or say something regrettable that I tend to swallow my frustrations and allow them to pass.  But I know better:  Adversity is supposed to teach us something; to change a behavior or a way of thinking.  Problems are allowed in our lives to make us live differently.  Bad things happen to produce something good.  If our lives were peaceful and perfect all the time, not only would we take everyone and everything for granted, but we wouldn’t grow as human beings.

But I still don’t know how far to let my girls take their own problems, especially when they run to me arguing their points of view, both of them expecting me to take a side.  My standard reply is for the arguing to stop NOW! or else.  I don’t try to negotiate, arbitrate or mediate.  I only try to stop it from continuing.

I’m sure my own behavior is teaching the girls all sorts of negative things: Not speak up, not to express their concerns, not to establish boundaries for themselves — and others.  I’m sure that I’m teaching them to let everything roll of their backs, to dismiss what they’re feeling, and to let others have their way because it’s easier.

Albert Einstein said that “we cannot prevent and prepare for war at the same time.”  It’s one or the other — either we prevent our differences from escalating to a level of violence, or we learn how to fight for what we want (and hopefully, we’ll win). But this particular mother may need to spend more time studying the words of Dwight Eisenhower, who stated the only real way to achieve peace is to fight for it.  You just have to learn to pick your battles.

 

 

 

What’s the right space between siblings?

Thursday, December 29, 2011
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I think someone is trying to tell me something. I have four friends due to have their second babies within one month this spring.

Erica has a daughter who will turn 3 in March and is due in early June. Tori has a daughter who will turn 2 in January and is due in June. Molly has a son who will turn 2 in May just days before her due date. And Jen has a daughter who won’t turn 2 until November and is also due in early June.

Erica lives in Tennessee, Tori lives in Nebraska, and Molly and Jen live in Charleston. So I can’t blame it on the water.

I guess it’s like the year my husband and I went to something like seven weddings. Our cohort is in the baby-having phase. Still, four in one month is a lot.

Before you ask, I’m not pregnant. Nosireebob. But I’m feeling the pressure. My daughter is three months younger than Molly’s son and three months older than Jen’s daughter. So we’ve been in this together so far.

Are we ready for a second kid? I don’t know. But I dwell at length on spacing between kids.

I don’t really think there’s a right or wrong spacing for kids. Every family is different, and there are pros and cons to every approach.

For example, my husband is one of four, and they are on average five years apart. He was 15 when his youngest sister was born. On the plus side, each child had the spotlight for a decent period before a new baby came along, and their sibling rivalry isn’t bad. On the con side, my in-laws have a both a tween at home and a granddaughter.

When my mother-in-law and I talk about this, she always cites the example of her friend Lisa’s family. Lisa had her three kids at two-year intervals, so she had three under five at one point. While it seemed crazy while the kids were little, my MIL sees the virtue of it now that they’re all three done with college and married and Lisa and her husband are free to enjoy the next phase of life.

My brother was born two months before my third birthday. We fought a lot up until I got to high school, but we get along now.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy says that a mother is physically best suited to conceive a second child 18-23 months after the birth of the first. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recited that fact. My daughter is just shy of 17 months. I’m not there yet!

My mom says that when she read about spacing, she concluded that the easiest spacing in terms of child-rearing is seven years (for only two kids) because the first is old enough to be independent but also help out with the new baby. My dad is seven years older than his brother, and they are very close as adults.

I don’t think we’ll wait seven years, but I don’t know if we’ll be ready next month either.

I know I don’t want to own two cribs, and I’d rather not have two in diapers at the same time. But I want them to be peers, to go to high school together. That really narrows it down, I guess.

So tell me, moms, what have you learned about spacing kids? Is there an ideal interval?