My kids don’t get along…and I don’t care anymore.
This may seem particularly harsh but I am really tired of policing their arguments and discussing all the ways that they will be better people if they can rely on each other when they are older. Because, really, is that true?
I know plenty of people who don’t get along with their family members and they seem perfectly happy and well adjusted. If I stop telling my kids that they should get along maybe they won’t know any better when they are older and it will seem perfectly normal to dislike each other. They didn’t pick each other, after all; they were forced together.
It wasn’t always this way – until a month ago my youngest adored his older brother—to a fault. Oh, the abuse he took! I would watch in agony as my 15-year-old ignored his little brother, teased his little brother, drove his little brother to tears with his indifference. My youngest would be so sad but he seldom lashed out and he always went back for more.
But now we have obviously turned a corner.
I say this because I can hear my 11-year-old tell his older brother that he does not want to play Call of Duty with him. “I don’t want to play anything with you ever again,” I hear him say. He doesn’t scream it at him, he doesn’t sound agitated. He is eerily composed.
Usually a disagreement between these two is charged with emotion and ends in a whole lot of tears – all from my youngest who just wants his brother’s attention.
This, however, is different…and a little scary.
I’m curious but I don’t jump in until I hear the tail end of the next sentence. “…because you’re being a dick,” he says calmly.
Now I have to intervene because of the language but I’m also dying to know what’s going on. “Now honey,” I say. “Even if that’s true, I don’t want you using that word.”
“Fine,” my 11-year-old responds. “You’re being an ass,” he says with a smirk.
Off to his room he goes.
This, of course, leaves the Xbox free for my 15-year-old, which I’m starting to think was part of his plan all along. This “plan” must suddenly have occurred to my youngest because he comes tearing down the stairs with a crazed look about him. He doesn’t look distraught; he looks vicious.
Again, this is different…and a little scary.
I intervene this time because my youngest is supposed to be in his room and, more importantly, I’m pretty sure that he is about to dive across the couch and begin pummeling his brother who is a foot taller than him and weighs 50 pounds more – not a good idea.
Once everyone retreats and the Xbox has been removed, I try to muster up the energy to have a discussion with my 15-year-old. But what am I going to say: “Be nice to your little brother. He will be there for you when you are older, blah, blah, blah.”? I think about reminding him of the book of poems that his little brother wrote about him for Christmas (just 2 months ago!) but I don’t.
Instead, I say something like this: “If someone doesn’t want you around, you need to respect that person’s wishes and go away. If you don’t get along with your little brother when you leave this house and go off into the world, that’s fine; but you are going to get along with him as long as you both live in this house because I don’t want to deal with angry outbursts and possible bloodshed.”
I don’t tell him to apologize, I don’t try to guilt him into being nice, I just don’t care today.
30 minutes later
I hear laughter.
I head downstairs to see who is over and find both of my boys sitting on the couch watching television. They look at my puzzled expression, give each other a knowing look and resume watching TV and laughing.
Apparently, I have stumbled across the best way to unite my children: give them a common enemy – me.
Governments could learn from me.