My boys are almost exactly two years apart and they are very different people. My 8-year old likes art, video games, Pokemon and soccer. He wants to play the flute. He is emotional, expressive and VERY intelligent, but has a bit of trouble with low self-esteem. My 10-year old is confident, charming and also intelligent. He likes Legos, baseball, reading and karate. The one thing they seem to have in common these days? Fighting. With each other. They fight constantly. About everything. It makes me nuts. If one says something is cool, the other must immediately expound on how stupid it is. They are both last-word freaks too. Neither will let anything go. Their one saving grace is that it hasn't become physical...yet.
The last fight they had was because Christopher was humming a Christmas tune. Apparently he had altered the words earlier to make into a song that was insulting to Daniel. It was driving Daniel to distraction that Christopher was humming the song constantly. "Christopher, stop it! Stop humming that!" Daniel was yelling at this point.
"I'm not doing anything Daniel! I'm just humming! God, leave me alone!" Christopher responded just a little too innocently.
"Mom, Christopher won't stop humming that song!" (Here it comes, one of the boys always drags me into it)
"Daniel, he can hum a song if he wants to, just don't listen to it," I respond, not knowing that Christopher has rewritten they "lyrics."
"But Mom, he's making fun of me! He made up a mean song and he won't stop humming it" Daniel tells me.
"Christopher, stop bothering Daniel and do your homework," I say.
"Mom, it's just a Christmas song," Christopher insists...and on and on. Eventually both boys wound up doing chores and both were upset with each other as well as me. I can handle them being angry or unhappy with me, but it happens so much lately. Internally I just sigh and go about my business.
Unflattering, I know. I probably shouldn't talk about my children in this way lest they read my blog at some point, but blogging is about writing about real-life stuff. Stuff that people can relate to and I need to talk about this. Perhaps if I talk about it here I can have the patience to handle their constant blowouts in a mature and effective fashion...and not sound like Sam Kinison while I do it. Who knows, perhaps someone out there in the blogosphere has some helpful suggestions for dealing with two intelligent, spirited boys who insist that they are always right. My current method does not seem to be deterring the fighting, even though I think perhaps they are listening somewhat. Every time a fight erupts between the two boys, I sit them down and make them talk it out. When we come to an impasse where one or both are not listening and they are still fighting, they get chores. If they have so much energy to argue and not enough to listen, they must have the energy to help me out around the house a bit. It is an effective distraction from bickering plus I get the added benefit of some much-needed help.
Some would say that I am wasting my time making them talk it out. They are, after all, only 8 and 10, right? How much capability do my young men have to really understand and work things out? A lot actually. I think that even when they don't DO what they should they are listening. I believe this because I see it in action. We talk about listening to each other and letting each other finish. And while many conversations are laced with frustration there is a love and respect developing between the boys.
If Daniel falls down and gets hurt, Christopher is usually the first by his side trying to make sure he is okay. Christopher, despite his protestations to the contrary, cares deeply if Daniel is sad about something and crying. Last night Christopher came downstairs and told me that Daniel was crying. I asked him to tell Daniel to come to me and worked through why the cat doesn't want to stay in the bed with him (Daniel has a tendency to squish Xavier when trying to be affectionate).
Now how can two boys who say they don't like each other care so much?