There was an adorable video posted several years ago that showed toddler twins communicating. In their own special language. It was endearingly cute and drew mass media attention.
My twins were around the same age at the time the video went viral. My experience in watching my boys communicate was (and still is) very different. Their special language goes something like this:
Three years later, not much has changed in how they communicate. Add a splash of Abe and it turns into complete chaos. Gus still screams like a cat in heat when he is being tormented, thinks he’s being tormented, or doesn’t get his way. Ben (big man of little words) continues to use strong, but gentle force to ensure fair treatment. And Abe (Mr. Know It All) rules with an iron fist, firmly securing his place as King of the Cannon Way Jungle. While I think The Dirties genuinely like each other, they are each programmed VERY differently. Despite being born of the same parents and raised in the same home, there are very few similarities in behavior and personalities. Nature vs. Nurture for sure.
The fighting is exhausting. Exhausting. There’s really no better way to describe it. Dave and I constantly stress that we are a TEAM. We attempt to teach the significance in harmoniously working together and the joy that comes from mutual accomplishments. But for now, the boys are much more concerned about who last touched the other person’s hair (as in STRAND of hair) than teamwork. More focused on making everything a competition (best burp, best knock-knock joke, best “I’m thinking of an animal” scenario). Who REALLY cares? They do. Immensely.
I have read many books on parenting and sibling rivalry. Attended workshops. Watched Podcasts. Attempted to learn from the most respected experts on child rearing. The truth is, we all just do the best we can with what we have each and every day. I strongly believe kids learn from example. As long as we repeatedly demonstrate family is THE most important bond of which one can be a part, they will be the best of friends…fifteen years from now. Encouraging them to work things out safely on their own, challenges them strategically in their resolve and helps them learn and grow from each petty argument. After all, my mom (and favorite expert) keeps reminding me that the fighting is much more troubling to me than it is to the boys.
So while I had a visceral reaction when Dave suggested taking his car on a recent road trip to the mountain (his 4-wheel-drive car with only one rear bench so the boys could touch each other, side-by-side for hours on end) – it probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world. Though in the end, Dave conceded and agreed to take my swagger wagon minivan instead.
So, let’s continue to do the best we can. Give our children time. Give them space. Let them work things out on their own (as loud as they may be). And hopefully, they’ll work towards creating beautiful, lasting friendships with each other while doing so.
My Facebook Post from September 22, 2010:
I was at the park when a woman commented on my sweet boys – especially the oldest who had just given his brother a kiss in the stroller. Obviously, she witnessed the events unfold from the wrong angle. Abe had actually placed his head forehead to forehead with Gus and pushed as hard as he could. He then proceeded to spit in his hair. Sadly, I just let her believe I have this mothering thing all figured out.