Thursday - Knocked Off Balance: Jockeying for Position
Though I have four half brothers and sisters (the story behind that is a whole other blog post), I was essentially raised as an only child by a single parent, which is why I knew I wanted at least two, maybe three children and the kind of home that would be brimming with activity. I had a definite image in my head of what I wanted my family life to be like—a passel of gorgeous children who would spend their time playing board games in a big sunny playroom, family dinners around the kitchen table, Sunday hikes, the whole enchilada. Any one of you reading this who grew up with siblings or is the parent of more than one child is probably smirking right now because you know where this is going.
I have been absolutely blown away by the reality of life with three young kids. During the first two years, when it felt more like I was raising a litter of kittens than three babies, I was shocked by the primal competition that was unfolding before my eyes. I’d be sitting on the floor, holding one baby, and my adorable little daughter would walk over and shove her infant brother aside so she could climb on my lap. Then the second baby would crawl over and try to worm his way into this so-called snuggle. Within seconds, all three would by flailing around, literally fighting each other to get closer to me and crying because no matter how I contorted myself I could never find a position in which they all got their needs met. It was so raw, their base instinct kicking in as they clawed each other out of the way and wailed piteously when they couldn’t get close enough to me.
Each time this happened, and sometimes it was several times a day, I would end up in tears. How could I ever make all of them happy? The entire experience was so foreign to me. I never had to share my mother or my father; I more or less had their undivided attention for most of my childhood. I was the only child on my mother’s side of the family, so I frequently demanded, and was given, the starring role at most family gatherings (This probably didn’t make me the most pleasant kid on the block, and sharing was not high up in my repertoire of tricks). My husband, who is the youngest of three kids, has tried to tell me that siblings may not get as much time with their parents but they have each other, and that’s a fair trade-off. I’m still not sure I totally agree with that, but as I see more and more of the benefits of siblinghood, I’m starting to come around.
Luckily that initial stage of constant physical struggle to overthrow each other in order to position themselves as close to me as possible had mostly passed by the time the boys were about one-and-a-half, which is when the wrestling phase started—another thing I have absolutely no experience with, and I suspect that this stage might last a good 20 years or more. And the noise level is truly astounding. Sometimes when we’re eating dinner I realize that everyone, including me, is practically yelling, trying to make ourselves heard over the general din.
But the thing that really kills me is the certainty with which they view each other. My oldest doesn’t remember not having her brothers, and as twins, the boys have no concept of being separate from each other because they so rarely are. These days I love eavesdropping on their conversations, especially when they are playing elaborate pretend games. The other day I was changing Finn’s diaper, and when I set him down on the floor, he took off running, yelling over his shoulder, “I’m going to find my brother and do a pillow fight!” Minutes later the sound of their thunderous stomps and hysterical giggles floated down the stairs. That’s the kind of chaos I was looking for.