Written by Emily
If you peek in our windows or stand on the sidewalk outside our house, you’d notice that our day often starts with “she started it!” Then our boy goes to school. When he comes home, there’s a tussle, a scream and then tears. Dinner comes and with it some “he started it!” The day ends with two fights, three wrestling matches turned MMA, some crying and then it’s good-night. Rewind. Repeat. Rewind. Repeat. Add weekends, subtract school and multiply by my own screaming.
The days have been long. By the time the kids are tucked in, I feel like I’ve run a marathon. Well, what I imagine that might feel like, and to me, it feels like physical and emotional torture.
Apparently children don’t respond to reason or their mother’s screaming. Mine don’t, at least. I could laugh and say, “Oh, they’re so spirited!” But the truth is, my obituary is writing itself: Death by Sibling Rivalry.
I’ve researched how to remedy this situation. Nothing I’ve tried sticks. They circle each other like sharks, these two. They rub against each other until a drop of blood seasons the water, and then they attack. All positive reinforcement is forgotten.
I did purchase this*:
And this cage*:
Just when I resigned myself to being nothing more than shark bait, the strangest thing happened. Dancing with the Stars waltzed in and saved my life. Let me say that again, Dancing with the Stars saved my life. I don’t even watch the show, but my wily two caught sight of these dancers, looked at each other and saw a challenge. For days, rather than sizing each other up for battle, they practiced “dancing.” Chloe became a choreographer, an expert in all things dance. Without any hesitation, she instructed Noah to lift her into the air again and again. Are you picturing the final move in Dirty Dancing where Patrick Swayze raises Jennifer Grey above his head? Good because so was Chloe (and she’s never seen Dirty Dancing).
While Noah was at school, Chloe talked incessantly about their dance moves. She outlined a performance and asked for a real audience (her parents, her grandparents, a red-headed baby). She chose their outfits; she watched the clock. She waited with wiggly puppy excitement for her big brother–er, her dancing partner–to get home. And when he did, they danced
And I stopped clenching my teeth.
Noah basked in Chloe’s suggestion that he was “super strong” and continued to humor her–even if it meant he had to wear a dress shirt, a tie and church pants. He drew the line at the glittery make-up Chloe wanted him to try, but she didn’t press the issue since she sparkled enough for both of them in her gold sequined gown.
On the night of the “show”, I was certain Noah would forfeit, seeing Chloe’s interest and enthusiasm as a weakness–the spot of blood in the water.
I was wrong.
While the audience waited for the dancers’ entrance–lights dimmed, music playing, Chloe dissolved into tears. It was too much; the pressure was too great. Tears streamed down her face and made pathways through the glitter and shine until she was red-faced and puffy–a picture of prom-night disappointment.
No consoling or encouragement from the audience made a difference. She was scared. Until Noah turned to her and said, “Come on, Chlo. I’ll be your prince.” My heart swelled and broke into a million pieces.
Just for a minute while she mustered enough courage to spin and bounce and jump into his arms, he was her prince. He wanted to be, and she let him.
He even lifted her feet off the ground.
The next day, they were back at it (and they still are), and by “it” I mean sparring not dancing. I’m glad I didn’t get rid of my chain mail suit. I still clench my jaw, but something’s changed. Since my dancers took the stage, glimpses of their friendship bubble to the surface without my prompting or intervention. I notice them giving in to the other’s imagination.
I catch them working together,
And my hope is restored.
*click images for links and credit.