As my kids have grown up – they are now almost 9 (boy) and 12 (girl) – there’s a whole lot less cuteness between them and a whole lot more fighting. Instead of enjoying those innocent afternoons pushing them on the swings next to each other (great work out, by the way) I now feel like I am refereeing a 1,113 round prize fight. Funny thing is, like married couples, usually they are not fighting about anything important (he splashed me when he spit his toothpaste), they are just fighting because of how they feel – about themselves, about each other, about anything.
I got a lot of insight from my older sister over Thanksgiving when she, somewhat insultingly, said younger brothers are the most useless things on earth….for most of the time you are forced to live with them, they can’t protect you, you don’t want to date their friends, they can’t help you with homework, and in general, they’re just pretty stupid, immature and embarassing. I can’t say I had a comeback – check, check, check and check.
So, the question is what is my role now? It’s similar to when you see your kid getting into it with another kid on the playground and you don’t know whether to intervene or let them work it out – except in this case, they are BOTH your kids. In the playground scenario, you kind of want your kid to assert him or herself – ya know, come out on top. When they are both your kids that approach could turn into an arms race of sorts.
To be honest, my response is often dictated by my mood. Has one of them already pissed me off today? Do I feel like getting up off my ass to deal with it? Do I have a headache? I try to take a consistent approach to these situations, but how many of us are really consistent in our parenting in any way. We react to situations based on what is happening in THAT moment, and only later can we reflect on how we handled it. In hindsight I am sure we all would have handled many, many situations differently.
So, now that my kids are past the “age of innocence” and into the “age of aggression” (and hormones) my job becomes more divided between being referee and being just plain old dad. I guess it’s just one more division.