Sibling Rivalry

I have complained about how my kids bicker too much. It is so annoying. They can be so mean to one another and to me. And I know deep down we all love one another.

The other day H. and I were bickering at the bookstore. He needs his summer reading books, 1984 and the God of Small Things. I said the version didn’t matter, he said he must have the exact, specified version. I had a get-it-done attitude; he had a wait-and-see attitude.

I was embarrassed when another mom friend, L., interrupted our disagreement just to say hello.

“Oh, sorry, we were just fighting,” I explained. “We fight a lot.”

“Fighting’s good,” she said. L’s a teacher and I believe her. Respectful disagreement is healthy.

One of my favorite phrases in an argument, and one that I always hope is a closer, is, “Let’s agree to disagree.”

I realized that my desire for my kids to never fight, bicker, or disagree puts undue pressure on them. Maybe even my attempts to squash their sibling rivalry somehow escalates their fighting. As if they unconsciously realize, “Great, now Mom’s in the fight, too. Let’s fully commit to this argument.” And then the yelling escalates.

At times, I do flip out. “Don’t you realize your arguing creates an impact! We are kind, loving parents. You are not being kind and loving!” The kids are too competitive. Or maybe they simply can’t help being mean, like when they point out one another’s pimples. I can’t figure it out.

I show exasperation.

And sometimes having a human and impatient response pays off. Recently after my kids were in a yelling match, my son went to play ball. On his way home, he phoned me. “Mom, I’m passing the grocery store. Do we need anything?”

I was shocked. “Yes, we need juice and milk.” I was totally pleased. And yesterday, the kids did pitch in and tidy up the apartment, even as they fought about how little the other person was doing, and how much they were doing. (See what I mean? Competitive!)

I had set the timer for 10 minutes. I said, “That’s all you have to do! Ten minutes.” But  an hour later, H. was still working, hammering loose cords into the molding.

Small victories. But I’ll take them. And I’ll take the fighting because I have no choice. I do have a choice in my response to their sibling rivalry. I will not let it get to me.

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Facebook group for home organizing

This is totally embarrassing. I had been doing a lot of stash and dash at my desk at home – work papers, teaching ideas, bills, notes for blog topics, kids’ school papers, my art projects.

I posted a picture in a closed Facebook group, 2012 – Out With the Old Declutter Group. The group, founded by Alison, is a way for about 30 eclectic friends and acquaintances to hold one other accountable for making and keeping our home organizing goals.

And one Saturday in January I posted this picture:

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I saw what I needed to do. I told the group I would clean my desk. So, little by little, throughout that one day, I organized. I found things I had been missing, like my wedding ring. I also found a still life of a pear that I’d painted and thought was pretty good, so I framed it.

To organize my papers, I grouped like with like. I filed some papers in my file cabinet, started a binder full of curricula, threw out papers, Christmas cards, my art.

And then I posted a pic of the finished, decluttered desk:

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It felt so good to make my home space pretty and functional. And I didn’t need to hire personal organizer. I just needed social media — my online accountability group and my camera phone. Priceless.