Give Your Brother Back His Arm

My kids are trying to kill each other. I know that’s something that most parents say, but in this case they are actually trying to kill each other. You can’t kill what’s already dead, but it’s still possible to trash the house and leave body parts everywhere. What’s left of my brain is pounding like a drum.

The parenting books are no help at all. “Don’t get involved in every single altercation,” they say. “Let them work it out, and only intervene when they get violent.” Maybe that advice works for breathers, but in my house every altercation is a violent one, usually involving torn-off limbs. How do you teach your children to use their words when their vocabulary consists entirely of grunts, growls, and moans?

Just yesterday morning my older son sat on his brother’s head in the wading pool and held him down. It didn’t do any harm, but the little one’s mood was spoiled for the rest of the day. At dinner that night he spat a tooth into his brother’s brains. By the time I’d gotten them separated, I’d sustained half a dozen bites and was ready to sell them both to the gun club for target practice.

My daughter, being the oldest, acts like she’s above it all when adults are watching. But I’ve caught her playing Got Your Nose with her younger brother, which wouldn’t be so bad if she’d give it back once in a while. Last week it took two hours to find his nose; she’d thrown it up a tree.

The only sure cure for this constant fighting that I’ve found is exercise. Several nights a week, we take a family trip to the local forest preserve where all the breathers go to jog after work. After an hour of chasing panicked exercise nuts and their dogs, all three of them are calm and happy again. And if they catch something, that’s even better. It saves me from having to come up with dinner myself.

But when the weather’s too cold or too wet for the breathers to go out, those are the days I dread. I’ve tried inviting people over for a bite, but so far nobody has accepted my invitation. If there are any readers out there with children, and if their sibling rivalry is driving you insane, swing by my place for a playdate. It’s a guaranteed win for both our families.

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