The boys I had a meltdown last night that resulted in some frantic texting to calm myself. Desperately reaching out and connecting in order to slow myself down and maybe hold myself back.
I am an only child, so my sole competition for my parent’s full attention was…..well, NO ONE. I wouldn’t say I was coddled or catered to, but I never doubted my parent’s love and affection and commitment.
So now, as a parent to two children, I often question and wonder if I do enough to love them both. To nurture them both. To attend to their current, varying developmental needs appropriately. I wonder if I can/should give them more space, less guidance, less boundaries—–or MORE?!? With boys, too, coming from a string of only children that are all females, I’m still trying to figure out that “boy balance”. The physicality of their interactions, affections and play is overwhelming some days.
In the classroom, as well as in our home, I crave quiet, calm, organized and focused moments of play and creativity. Innately it has always meant productivity, control and success when those qualities permeate my classrooms or our home. I would venture to say that those qualities of quiet, calm organization and focus equate to success for much of our culture. I value team work, collaboration, and conversation in my own life and work, but often fear the “out of control” vibe it can lead to or give off to others. In the classroom, as in our home, when the volume and mess mount, I want to PUT A LID ON IT. To control it. To end it. To snap my fingers and create a spa-like tranquility.
I start to wonder if the volume and raised voices are equal to rivalry. And if so, is that rivalry productive? Character building? I watch the boys fight over toys. Raise their voices (or babbling) louder and louder, pulling our pantlegs, crying out for our full, undivided attention. And I often wonder if they feel like the other one, their brother, gets more of us. More of our love. More of our attention. More of our devotion. More of our bragging. And last night, after my eldest pulled a sibling stunt that I know is normal (yet seems SO out of line for this only child), I lost it. And my anger and his anger clashed. And he made it really clear that he believed I loved the youngest better. That “the baby” was cuter. That he, himself, was growing up and just not as “GOOD”.
We talked it out. (even though I know reasoning and talking isn’t the most productive plan with almost five year olds) But….it was a good conversation. We talked about family. The gift of it. The need for dependence and reliance on it. The special bond that it is. The gift that his brother will be to him always and forever. I told him that his brother would be the ONLY one to fully get how crazy and frustrating his parents were.
And then, I relied on the buoying of feverishly texting with my step-mother-in-law while breathing heavily as the eldest cleaned his torn apart room and brushed his teeth. Then talked with my husband after his return from work. And emailed a friend. And for me, I realized for the umpteenth time that parenting and community and friendship and family is often riddled with rivalry. And rivalry is often very hidden. Very silent. A slow cancer that eats away at our insides, behind the “perfect veneer” we try to portray to even our closest companions.
Rivalry can push us to be better. To do better. But, I have to cling to the fact that it is not the best way to get those desired results. Clinging to “wanting the other’s best”. Holding fast to loving those in our daily lives, even sacrificially. Commiting to putting ourselves second vs. competing for our own needs. To me, those pursuits have to be our drive and undertaking, not rivalry.
WOOOOWEEEE, that’s hard in practical terms. For me, it involves lots of pep talks, opportunities to re-center and re-orient myself when I get off course, chances to wildly text my embarrassing parenting mishaps in honesty, knowing that each decision to do so is taking a step back from rivalry. And a step towards community and a deeper love.
In this vein, I’m attacking our pantry cupboards today. Yes, some of you may remember my attempts at this last fall. And those attempts were fairly successful, but like anything in life, especially relationships, maintenance is necessary. Tending. Pruning. Purging. Assessing. They are all needed. And since the grand reorganization, we have also done some significant changes to our diet and eating. In turn, the systems and foods put in place in September, might not be the same we need today. So in honor of Project Simplify’s (at simplemom.net) focus this week on the pantry and fridge, Drew and I are attacking a pantry re-assessment today while Alex is at school. Anyone who has been around my 17 month old knows that “helping” with organizing is a VERY lofty goal (some may call it insane).
But, we’ll give it a shot. Results to come soon. And please remember sharing this all is not to encourage rivalry….rather, to create a sense of control in one small area of my life that doesn’t involve loud people under the age of 10!