Do you play favorites with your kids? I try not to, and I don’t think I do, but sometimes I wonder if the boy perceives it that way. I don’t have a favorite child. I love my kids both the same and yet differently. I think the question arises mainly because of their age difference. I can overlook things more with a six-year old than a thirteen-year old, explain it away because of age or immaturity.
Like when they are fighting about something stupid. The other day, there was some delightful screaming coming from the girl’s bedroom. It turns out that the kids were fighting over an eraser. A stupid eraser that looked like a $100 bill. I’m not sure whose eraser it was in the first place, but I think we had several of them and I recall putting at least one of them away in the girl’s craft drawers.
But apparently, there was one on the boy’s bedroom floor one minute and the next, and the next, it was gone. So, he went into her room, knowing that she had taken it. When she saw him grab it, the arguing ensued. They were both in full-on, “It’s MINE” mode and I was not in the mood. He ended up keeping the eraser, but I ended up defending her, and I am a little ashamed to admit that when these types of skirmishes arise, I tend to fall on her side of the issue.
It’s not because I love her more, or because she is my favorite. It’s mainly because OMG THE SCREAMING MAKE IT STOP! And I know that’s not necessarily the right attitude to have, because I don’t want to train her to scream and get what she wants. However, I can tell you with complete certainty that if I found that eraser and asked him if it was his or if he wanted it, he would not. Unless he could text his friends or play games or go online using that eraser, he would not give one teeny, tiny RAT’S ASS about that eraser. But because he knew his sister took it? That eraser suddenly became the essence of his very being. He Can’t! Live! Without! THAT ERASER!!!!
And that is what pisses me off. We go through this constantly. Stupid sibling fights over stupid things that neither of them cares about. They only want to win. To get one over on the other. People, I am an only child – I came into this parenting gig knowing nothing about these sibling fights. I was naïve enough to think that because they were so different in age that this wouldn’t happen. I even actually said those words when she was a baby.
I was MONUMENTALLY STUPID back then.
But the point is that now, I feel like I take her side over his too much. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I always take her side – I take his, too. But sometimes I look at the stupid fight they are having and I think, OK, it’s normal for a six-year old to act like a six-year old. But for a thirteen-year old to act like a six-year old? No. And when he has a legitimate beef with her (like yesterday when he came home from a sleepover to find that she had left a bunch of her toys in his room), I support him. I just can’t take when he fights with her for the sake of fighting with her. Because he doesn’t care about the stupid eraser. He only cares about winning. Same with her. She’d never look at that damned eraser again, but because he has it, she wants it. But she’s six. That’s what six-year olds do.
I also think some of this stems from the fact that she is my last child – my baby. I can remember when he would never sleep in his own bed and it made me insane. I read twitter and facebook updates and blog posts from my friends with a young child and they all sound just like me back then: “OMG this child needs to sleep in his/her own room before I lose my mind!” But knowing that she is my last, and that pretty soon, she won’t want to be caught dead sleeping with me? Some nights I find myself lying in bed actually wishing that she would come crawl in and snuggle with me. I know these days are numbered and I want to revel in every last one of them.
And, I mean, he’s thirteen. In case you don’t know a thirteen year old – they are kind of a pain in the ass. I was a pain in the ass when I was thirteen. Everyone I know was a pain in the ass when they were thirteen. That’s what thirteen is all about – you’re trying to figure out who you are and what you want and you’re growing and you’re tired and you’re hungry and all that plus Jesus GOD the hormones are making you into some sort of alien monster idiot moody pain in the ass clinically insane cyborg. And he’s no exception.
But he’s a good kid. Sure – he has stupid fights with his sister, but according to every single non-only child I have ever talked to – that’s normal. And sometimes he’ll sit patiently with her and help her play a game or watch a movie with her or help her trap a cat in a cardboard box. He can’t walk past a homeless person or a bell ringer or a donation box without digging into his own pocket. He enjoys life – he smiles and laughs easily. He loves to spend time with his family. He is kind. He plays with his little cousins. He’ll sit and talk to his 90 year old Baba even though she can’t hear a word he says. He wears his heart on his sleeve.
But like every other thirteen year old, he’s at this weird place in his life. He’s not a kid, but he’s not an adult and sometimes he’s a moody pain in the ass who doesn’t care what I think or do, and other times, he’s still my little boy who wants a hug and is easily hurt. He’s an almost-man who is still willing to hang out with his mom, who isn’t embarrassed to put his arm around me in public. Until, of course, he is in range of sight of another cyborg in a Hurley shirt and then he tries to discreetly remove himself. And I let him because I understand. I want to hang on to those moments for dear life because he’s still my baby boy, just like his sister is my baby girl.
So I’ll hug him and hold his hand when I can, and let go when he wants me to. And even though I’ll take his sister’s side is a stupid fight about a stupid eraser, I’ll let him stay up later, and talk to him like an adult, and give him the freedom he craves (within reason), and I won’t come down on him too hard when he forgets something for the seventy-hundredth time even though I sometimes want to take him in for a head X-ray because I am sure that along with all his pencils, his phone, and his science homework, he lost his brain, too. I won’t freak out when I hear him utter a swear word, and I won’t butt into his friendships or phone calls (much). And even though the sound of sixty straight minutes of hacky-sacking is driving me crazy, I’ll let him do it in the family room. And while the forty-minute long conversation about Runescape is killing my brain cells and making my ears bleed, I’ll nod and smile and listen just a little while longer.
And I hope he knows that is me taking his side.