Every mom has techniques of self-preservation and survival whether they realize it or not. I know I have them, and I know that they have varying degrees of respectability and worth. I do not feel particularly proud, for instance, when I hear from the back of the house a child’s voice say, “I’m telling,” and I quickly scurry into the laundry room, close the door and quietly fold clothes for a few minutes while listening to the child looking all over for me. (I have no plausible explanation for why they never think to check the laundry room, except maybe that it’s a little off the beaten path, having been formerly an enclosed porch.) But I have one technique that I employ that I think is ok. I use it when I am sucked into the vortex of sibling rivalry, where there is plenty of blame to go around, and often no easy answer to the problem at hand.
One day last week Five (The numbers refer to age, not birth order.) ran into my room as I was getting ready to go grocery shopping and announced that Eight had kicked her. Now, of course, that is a very serious offense, so I dropped what I was doing and went to investigate. I found Eight standing in the dining room holding one of our cats. I steeled him with my most serious “You are really in trouble now” look and said in a voice that meant, I didn’t want to believe what I was saying, but was pretty sure there had to be some truth in it, “You kicked you sister?”
“No, I didn’t kick her,” he denied indignantly. “I was holding the cat, and she was trying to get up to it and kiss it. And it was my turn with the cat. So I put my foot out to keep her away.” He put his foot out to recreate the scene, and immediately began to wobble under the unbalanced load of the cat, making it obvious that his version was probably more accurate. He could barely stand on one foot holding the cat, much less launch a kick.
I turned to Five and saw by the look on her face that Eight was right. She had apparently not been getting her own way and had tried twisting the situation to her benefit. But she decided not to give up. She hates being wrong right now. “Yes he did kick me!” she yelled. Now up to this point Eight had been pretty much in the clear, but false accusation was his breaking point that day. He launched an insulting rebuttal that I can’t actually remember, and before I could get a word in, they were in a shouting match containing several off-limits phrases (ie stupid, lying, dumb, etc.). Luke 6:28 has been discussed on many occasions in our house. If you’re like me that reference doesn’t mean much, but you probably know the verse,”Bless them that curse you, pray for them which despitefully use you.” Of course the ‘cursings and usings’ in question were on a small scale, but that is no reason to ignore them, and on the day in question, rather than address the multitude of child-sized cursings and usings that had just taken place in the last five minutes, I decided it was time to just bless and pray. I joined the yell fest in progress, my only agenda being to get a moment of silence, in which to speak, and when I did, I said, “Ok, I know you didn’t deliberately kick your sister, Eight, but both of you are being very rude and unkind to each other right now in how you’re talking. So I want you both to go and pray for each other. Both of you can think of some blessing to pray over your sibling. Now go.”
Eight took the cat and went to his room. Five wandered slowly into the living room. I didn’t realize it but she still wasn’t finished. I started trying to find my purse. The next thing I knew Five was standing at the threshold of Eight’s room throwing the loudest kisses possible to the cat inside. Eight was apparently not phased. Because after a moment she bellowed squeakily, “You heard her! Pray for me!” and stomped away. Did anybody learn anything? I don’t know. I was just going on about how I sometimes get through the day.