The Only Child

February 22, 2011 5:05 pm

Growing up with two older brothers, I was a tomboy who loved to do everything and anything my brothers did. Barbies were not on my radar, I was content to play with GI Joe and Transformers or to play tag in the neighborhood with my brothers and their friends. I was probably constantly underfoot but my brothers were pretty good at letting their kid sister tag along. When we learned that we were having a girl, I was so glad she was going to have a big brother like I did. I looked forward to the days when they would play together and look out for one another.

Man, was I wrong.

My kids do not like each other. That’s not entirely true, I would say that approximately 10% of the time, they get along but the rest of the time it’s all out war in our house. We have to stay within five feet of them at all times or somebody is likely to get hurt. I only wish I were exaggerating. It starts the second they wake up, continues in the car, through mealtimes and doesn’t end until they are both tucked in bed at night. Every once in awhile they play nicely together and it’s amazing to get a glimpse of how it could be. But then BAM, someone gets body checked and we’re back to screaming matches and time outs. It’s exhausting.

The days are long and are mostly spent trying to survive the hours until bedtime. It’s gotten so bad that when we realized we had a three day weekend coming up, Jamie booked a hotel for one night to take Graham and keep the kids separate. A HOTEL. To keep the kids from killing each other on an unusually long weekend. What the hell is wrong with this picture? The thing about it is that both kids are a joy to be around when they’re an “only child”. Which isn’t actually an option, lest we lose a kid somewhere or sell them on ebay.

I have to give disclaimers when I drop the kids off at the gym daycare: They will play nicely with other kids but keep an eye on them if they’re together. Their teachers know not to bring them on the playground at the same time or it will result in time outs for one or both kids. We can’t even keep them from fighting, how could someone else be expected to? They see each other as a threat and constant competition and I don’t know how to get past it. I want my kids to love each other. I want less attempted murder and more friendly interaction. I want it to stop.

We have been gluten/casein/soy/dye/preservative free for over a year now. We definitely notice more behavioral problems when something forbidden gets accidentally ingested but still. An entire year of cutting out all of these allergens and the kids are still having issues. The same kids who are perfectly capable of behaving for their teachers at school. It’s not the food. So what’s the problem? I know full well what the problem is, it’s the parents. They are in constant competition for our attention and will take any type of attention they can get. The frustrating thing is, they HAVE our attention. I mostly quit blogging for months. I’m home with them and I’m interacting with them. So what am I doing wrong? Did I give them too much attention in the first place? Is this newfangled style of “hands on” parenting too much for them to handle? Should I just boot their asses outside all day and tell them not to come home until dinner like our parents did to us? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’ve become one of those frazzled moms who has resorted to screaming. I’m always on edge and my patience is nonexistent. This is not what I wanted for my family when I stopped working to raise my kids.  I wanted a happy family or at the very least,  kids who can coexist without being violent toward one another. Something’s got to give so it’s time to buckle down the hatches and kick some toddler ass. Figurative toddler ass, not literal.  Unless someone else wants to take a crack at raising them?

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  1. Cat

    I have two words for you: Super Nanny.

  2. Mama Badger

    Ugh. Sounds like you need outside help. Does the school counselor have any advice?

  3. Anne

    I would try talking to your pediatrician. He might have some suggestions. I am sure there are things you can do, I just am pretty useless as far as suggestions are concerned.

  4. Mrsbear

    Straight jackets? Do they make them in toddler sizes?

    My kids take shots at each other all day, but nowhere near as constant and vicious as your two. It might be time to call in reinforcements. Or maybe rent one of them an apartment.

  5. Jenni

    Let them go at it. Full on cage match – chairs, and everything. The survivor gets to be an only child. Done and done.

  6. kyooty

    this! they are banking on the idea that mom will stop them from killing each other. Kids basically play beside each other until they are abut 6-7yrsold.

  7. Mrs. C.

    My sister in law’s kids are like that. Their problem is that the older child was not taught to be respectful to anyone, including little bro, from the start. I KNOW that isn’t what’s going on at your house, but it’s so hard to watch them fight with each other. Hugs to you guys because though I don’t live with it I have seen what it’s like.

  8. Sprite's Keeper

    Nah, I don’t think Super Nanny can handle this situation. I’ve seen you parent Graham and I know how you are with him. If they’re absolute angels alone, it’s completely within their own mutual agreement to not get along.
    Which one is usually starting it? That could be the key to the puzzle..

  9. Keely

    Some siblings are just like oil and water. They’d be oil and water if they WEREN’T related, but they have to spend all day together to boot.

    I’m sure it’s not the parenting. You could try different balances of “attentive” and “ignoring” for years before you figured out what helped. My suggestion would be a family counsellor or psychologist. Plus, as a bonus, maybe you will all get hooked up to electric shocks like in the Simpsons.

  10. Stacy Uncorked

    I was a tomboy growing up, too – me and my brother always harassed and tried to get my two sisters in trouble All. The. Time.

    Is it wrong that you’re making me glad that I wasn’t able to have more than one? I bet if I had another child, PN and he/she would be just like your two, just based on PN’s strong personality.

    Maybe you should go for a third – you know, as a referee… *ducking as you throw something at my head*

  11. Captain Dumbass

    My brother and I were like that until my parents got divorced when I was 18, then we were great friends afterwards.

    Er… bad example.

    Bring in the professionals.

  12. Ginny Marie

    Ed always threatens to sell our girls to the gypsies. He has yet to carry through on his threat!

    I don’t know what the solution is, especially since it sounds like you have tried everything! When we wanted to have the girls behave better, I started a positive reinforcement program with them that works pretty well. Just email me if you want specifics, although it might be something you do already.

  13. kyooty

    my first brother and I are 14months difference. We still just “tolerate” each other. Sometimes we got along, but we were very different personalities.

  14. Lizgizzy

    Hey- James’s tormenter got the boot and won’t be coming back. We are enrolling him in aikido so hopefully he can learn some personal safety skills and build some confidence.

    It never ends does it? I’m sorry you are frazzled but I think you have the right idea.

    My best friend’s kids were like this when they were little. They could barely tolerate eachother for a while. They were about 18 months apart but from 2-4 years the differences might as well have been eons. They had violent fights, I remember the eldest picked up an umbrella stroller and hit her sister with while she roared with rage. I couldn’t get there fast enough to stop it, it happened so fast. It was scary I didn’t think kids could get that mad over a doll.

    But now, while it isn’t all roses, they get along. They are both old enough to have more patience with eachother. So I hope that time will make a difference.

    My girlfriend was pretty frazzled for a while, but she hammered home the message that there would be no hitting, no pinching, no biting, no screaming, over and over. They didn’t have to like eachother, but they had to respect eachother and that was the law. The consequences for not following the law were swift and never varried. For the oldest having to sit in time out alone, in another room was the worst thing her Mom could do- so that was what she got. The other had been a computer whiz since she was two. Loosing computer privs for a day was the worst for her.

    Hang in there. I know that it is super hard, but don’t let them push your buttons. Figure out what works as punishment and enforce a zero tolerance policy. Bring that hammer down!

  15. run addict

    I am working my way back to blogging. I am FULLY incognito. I missed you all. I picked a few of you to comment on. Come see me.

  16. Andrea

    Yep and yep. My kids are not quite so bad, mainly because Thor can go to his room and shut the door in his sisters face. From the moment we are scrambling to get breakfast to the moment Chick goes to bed it can be bedlam. Bickering, fighting, she hit me, he hit me, he took, she took; and on and on.

    I hear you. If you find the magic fairy godmother who solves this issue let me know. Since mine are about five years apart and older they get along slightly better than it sounds your kids do. I had a sister and we hated each other. Maybe it’s normal??

  17. Andrea

    And oh yeah, I’ve turned into a yeller. I swore I’d never yell at my kids but some days…I’m on the edge. So don’t feel bad about that. I think if we all were honest we’d find we all do it!

  18. SuziCate

    You know thaey say duct tape really is industrial strength! Seriously, things will be better soon…they’ve got to outgrow it, right?!

  19. K

    Good luck! I find myself screaming too. I’ve even spanked a few times and I really don’t believe in it. Maybe time will help? I remember there were times I HATED my sister and then times where she was like a goddess (she’s five years older).

  20. lin

    Are you venting or do you want advice?

    If you want advice, I’m loaded with that shit. If you want to vent, I can get loaded with booze and listen just as easily. 🙂

    Consistency, rules, and routine worked good with my kids. But it takes work and lots of it. And mom AND dad have to be on the same page with everything.

    Bedtime is at 8:00. Baths at 7:30, bed and stories at 8:00. Lights out at 8:30. Every single day. Even the weekends. (This is just an example)

    Don’t engage in their fights. Don’t take anyone’s side and definitely don’t make a fuss. See–getting you worked up gets you engaged in their battle and they get attention. When they start going at it, silently take one kid by the hand and walk him to their room. Then go get kid #2 and silently walk them to their room. They can stay there WITHOUT your attention for 10 mins (or whatever). Then go and talk to them about getting along. If they can be nice, they can be together. And when they are nice, tell them how good they are and do positive comments. Bad = no comments.

    I dunno. I don’t have a freaking clue how to raise kids. We are all on a wing and a prayer, but I do think that routine and consistency works. Also, little TV time. I swear my kids got goofier the longer the tube was on.

    Hugs, pally. Hang in there. I’m thinking about ya. And you know where my email is if you want support.

  21. Alta

    Does this still work when they are 14 and 12, and the 14YO is 6’4″ and 210 lbs? I don’t think I can physically walk him anywhere! LOL These are my stepkids, and so unfortunately, we only have influence on a part-time basis, so it feels like a losing battle sometimes!

  22. Maggie

    Ooohhhh bring in the SuperNanny! I hear she fixes everything!

    My kids fight a lot, but usually when I won’t let them watch tv. Which is a lot. I think the food thing might be the biggest trigger with your kids…as with many others. I wish you didn’t have to go through it though.

    Hang in there!!

  23. If I Could Escape

    Hey, I grew up with two big brothers too. And, a bratty little sis — hehe! Sorry Kirsty. Anyway, give it time — they’ll get on one day. Hugs. x

  24. Pseudo

    Not sure what your belief system is, but perhaps this is something they need to work out from a past life experience. Not sure what that means, but it’s an outside possibility…

    Since my blog hiatus also has to do with a child going through horrific times, I am no expert, just humbled. I can say if you get professional help, do your homework. There are a myriad of perspectives in the psychology/psychiatry field and a great match can make all the difference – but a bad one makes things worse. Least it did for us.

  25. Carrie

    My kids always did the same..when my hubby got home I’ll live it to him the punished the boys.

  26. Dana

    You are not alone. I know that is no help whatsoever, because it’s no help for me to type it to you when I am going through the same thing at my own house. I’m on day two of the first summer of us all here together (me with my 4YO and 5YO), and I’m already toting around my bottle of Klonopin. People think I’m terrible for saying it, but I’m actually looking forward to when they grow up and move out (that’s when I assume they will “outgrow” it). They irritate the ever living shit out of me. I love them, and I know they love each other, but this house is a crazy place that I just don’t enjoy. 🙁

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