Sometimes I wonder if my kids even like each other. But then, out of the blue, I spot them playing soccer, together. In the house.
“Whoa,” their dad says.
“Hey, at least they’re playing together and not bickering. It’s all good,” I suggest, laughing, whilst mentally calculating the cost of a new window – just in case it’s not.
I recall a time several years ago when friends lamented the sibling rivalry raging in their homes. I admit I quietly marveled that my children somehow got along, even seemed to enjoy each other’s company. It started early, with Noah putting his own blanket into baby Holly’s crib before she was even born, and a few months later, when he sang “Puff the magic dragon” to her when he thought no one else was looking. I won’t exaggerate – nobody’s flinging sharp objects at anyone else, now – but yeah, those were the days.
At 12 and 14, my kids can go for days with nary a glance in the other’s direction. When they do communicate, shrugs and grunts aren’t uncommon.
One morning a couple of weeks ago, however, before I even got out of bed, I overheard my son teaching his little sister and her buddy how to make waffles from scratch.
I had the impulse to run downstairs and lavish them with praise, but that would have required getting out of bed. Besides, I didn’t want my presence to pierce a sweet, fleeting moment.
So, I listened from a distance, instead, to the lilting, soothing sound of an encouraging voice and the sweet, higher ones murmuring their queries and replies. I couldn’t hear every word, but knew that something nice was happening – something that I, myself, had no hand in initiating. It’s a moment I’ll treasure, always.
I steered clear of the kitchen, remained in my cozy cocoon, and decided I’d quietly join them when the waffles were ready.
Sometimes, knowing when to get out of the way and let the kids sort things out for themselves is harder to discern.
Occasionally, in my house, someone will kick the soccer ball a little too hard or wrestle a little too roughly, and someone else will yell “Stop!” or “Mom!” Should I play cop and intervene, I wonder?
Mostly, whatever the conflict, I remind them that they’re equipped to peacefully resolve things on their own – and usually they do. But other times, things go sour and I’m left scratching my head and wondering, “What just happened here?”
Like when someone’s “Stop!” is followed with laughter, and that person’s apparent effort to keep things light while still getting her point across sends a mixed message and the point gets lost. Once I realized this was happening, a brief conversation ensued. Though it might be confusing, I said, no matter what, “Stop” means “stop” – and “No” means “no” – even if there’s laughter involved.
I deliberately kept it short – and light. But, mindful of the implications, I hoped valuable seeds were sown that would bloom when they were needed. For both of them.
Relieved of my reverie as the scent of home-made waffles wafted up the stairs, I wondered how they’d taste. My wondering didn’t last long, however, as my dear daughter soon appeared at my bedside with the fruits of their labor. Breakfast in bed. Sweet!
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at email@example.com.