I am blessed to be a stay-at-home mom to my three kids, ages 8, 5, and 2. And my kids do not get along.
I mean, like, 95% of the time they cannot agree on anything. The sibling rivalry is brutal.
I spend my day with constant, low-level anxiety that one kid will set off another. Here is an example of the running dialogue in my head on a typical morning:
Great! My big kid is on the bus, and the preschooler and toddler are both in the playroom. I can empty the dishwasher, throw in a load of laundry, and microwave my leftover coffee before they start fighting. Cue dramatic preschooler screaming, “LEAVE ME ALOOONE!” I pop my head into the playroom. Toddler brother is hitting preschool sister with an action figure. I diffuse the situation and go back to the dishwasher, where I have only unloaded the top rack. A clingy toddler runs after me, crying, “Mamaaaa!” OK, I’ll unload the rest while holding the toddler. Toddler grabs a knife out of the dishwasher, soooo… nope. Close dishwasher, give the toddler a snack, and put on a video (potato chips and YouTube at 8:30 a.m.).
I take advantage of his distraction and run to the basement to put in the laundry. Suddenly, the preschooler is at the top of the basement stairs, yelling, “Mom, I want snack too!” The toddler hears the word “mom” and runs to the top of the stairs, crying for me. As I attempt to stuff the last of the clothes in the washer and push “start,” the two little ones at the top of the stairs begin a battle.
I scoop up the toddler before he falls to his death and give the preschooler her own snack. Everyone good? Great! I’ll go upstairs to get dressed. (You know, so we can get out of the house today.) I put the toddler’s show back on so the kids won’t fight while I go upstairs. Preschooler is not happy with mommy’s choice of YouTube video, so I tell her to use her iPad while mommy gets dressed.
I sneak upstairs and wash my face. I put in one contact lens. Then I hear screaming from the preschooler — “Stop sitting on me! Stop bothering me!” I go down the stairs — half blind — hop the baby gate, and pull the toddler off his sister. Sibling rivalry at its finest. I bring the toddler upstairs while I finish getting ready. Desperate to just get out of the house, I allow him to bring his potato chip breakfast upstairs, too.
I plop him on my bed and go back to my contacts. While inserting the final contact onto my eyeball, I hear the crunch of potato chips being smashed into my sheets. (More laundry! Great!) While he’s entertained by his mess, I get dressed and grab the kids’ clothes for the day, then we head back downstairs.
Since I desperately need more coffee to tackle this day — and I still have not eaten breakfast — I decide to make a protein shake with my cold, leftover coffee. The toddler hears the sound of the blender and comes running into kitchen screaming, “Shake, shake!” So I let the kids make a smoothie together with fruit and yogurt, because I can’t share my coffee protein shake with them. They happily go into the living room with their smoothie cups, and I start sucking down my shake while finishing the dishwasher.
That entire rundown? It was approximately twenty minutes of my day.
But this is what it is like all day, in addition to the complication of after-school hours, when my 8-year-old autistic son is home and the sibling rivalry is magnified. He has a very hard time when he hears his siblings crying. So picture the above story plus a special needs child totally freaking out. That is a sample of what my real life is like as a parent.
It is messy and challenging at every turn. But it is the season of life we are in.
Even though they fight and argue, they still love each other. Those sweet moments I catch feel extra special. Someday I will look back and long for them to be this little. At times, I am overwhelmed and frustrated. But I am so grateful to have three kids healthy enough to fight each other. And hopefully, the bond they have as siblings will help them fight FOR each other in the end.