Jewish World Review August 23, 2005 / 18 Av
Trying to keep the peace with four little ones
Every once in a while I'll test my conviction that children really are sinful little creatures. One child will come to me with a complaint about another, and I'll suggest the offending child be dropped off on the highway somewhere for good. I keep hoping the "victimized" child will recoil in horror at the notion. But inevitably the "wronged" little one thinks dumping the sib is a great idea.
I don't remember a whole lot in the way of sibling rivalry back when I was little. I think that's because my four older siblings were so unified against their baby sister that I didn't stand a chance against them, so I didn't even bother.
(They would argue that I so manipulated our parents that it took four of them to stand up to one of me, but who's to say whose memory is correct?)
Anyway, flash forward, and now I'm trying to keep the peace with my own four little ones. I sometimes think my mother is watching from heaven and laughing hysterically.
I have learned one thing for sure: To be incredibly grateful for the times when my kids are getting along, playing well together or in any way whatsoever enjoying each other. Those moments really are little pieces of heaven on Earth and I let them know it.
But as I think any parent of more than one child knows, those moments can end in a moment, too.
So here's what I often tell my kids, particularly the older ones, hoping it will sink in sometime in the next 20 years: That G-d put each child into this family for a purpose and for the good of the other children. Sometimes that "good" might even come through suffering and through having the opportunity to learn to get along with people when those people can be difficult.
I teach them that love is in the "doing," not just in the feeling. So even if one doesn't "feel" love at the moment for the child who took her candy (understandably), they are still called to do good to each other.
And I have a rule which gets broken all the time but it's still a good rule: If one child is feeling offended by a sib, he or she has to try to resolve it with the offender first before coming to me. So if one little one approaches me full of indignation over some kind of "assault" by another, usually the first thing I'll say is (if I don't start with the highway suggestion), "Have you already talked to your sister/brother about this?"
Imagine how much happier we would all be if we could learn early on to find happiness instead of resentment in the good fortune of others.
Of course, there are times when all else fails, it's been a long day and they are still being "The Bickersons" or worse. That's when I remind myself that parenting is about persevering in doing what we believe to be right for our kids even when, especially when, we might not see the fruit of that perseverance for a long time.
And when it really gets bad, I just send them to bed early and hope that with a little extra rest for me, at least the next day will be better. I also remind myself that the start of school is just around the corner.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.