Monday, September 10, 2007


The highlight of my weekend: watching M and E at the dining room table, each playing Stardoll on a laptop, laughing and chattering away as they constructed and compared their fashion creations.

Microexplanation: Yes, it was their umpteenth hours of screentime. Yes, it was a stupid website. But three of the four of us had nasty colds all weekend and one of the four of us was at work with his nasty cold all weekend, so I was just happy they were amusing each other and I could lie on the couch with my nasty cold and read the paper.

Macroexplanation: I think I am not misremembering when I say that for the first four years of E's life, M and E got along great. Yes, Mom, I know M would pinch E in her carseat--or do whatever it was you thought I didn't notice--when I wasn't looking, but overall they enjoyed each other's company, played together fairly endlessly, and fought briefly when at all. This honeymoon was, of course, predicated on their age difference: four years older, M still loved to play, but could make all the rules; four years younger, E was in love with her older sister, generally happy to follow her rules, and cute enough that when she was insubordinate, M could usually just laugh.

Then E got some opinions. And M got a life. And things weren't quite so halcyon. E wanted to make rules, M wanted to go out and play with her friends, and while there were still more happy moments than not, the fighting escalated, as did M's efforts to manipulate E ("First we'll play my game, then we'll play your game...OK, now that my game's over, I just want to read, not play.") and E's comprehension of when she was being, shall we say, played ("M's not being FAIR!").

When M got back from camp this summer, we hit rock bottom. I am quite confident that in the long run M and E will be best of friends. They really do like each other, and by the time M is in college and E in high school, I'm sure they will have much to do and say, not the least of which will be commiserating over their impossible mother. But with M entering middle school and E in first grade, things looked bleak. M wanted to hang out with her friends, and E felt abandoned. M had a cellphone and could go to the park and the store by herself, and E was jealous. E wanted to play, and M was bored. Which resulted in fight after fight after fight, pretty much constantly. I knew part of it was circumstantial, as M transitioned from camp independence to the familial embrace, but it was so dire as to seem (temporarily) permanent. Had we become one of those families whose kids don't get along?

No, thank goodness. And, interestingly, it took the forced intimacy of family vacation to bring them back together. On our vacation, they shared a room--and for the most part stayed in it all night, which may be a first. It was a pretty cool vacation and a pretty cool room, and they got very into doing things on their own in their room. The vacation also naturally involved time together and time apart, which made things less forced. And since we got home, they've just been normal again. Yes, they fight. Yes, M has her middle school life and E gets jealous and bored. But they are not sworn enemies, as they seemed to be three weeks ago, they play, and they seem reasonably happy together, except when they're not.

And I am one relieved mother of children who get along well enough.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

What a nice thing to read on a dreary day. Thank you!