Friday, October 12, 2007

the fight club

Sometimes I feel at a real disadvantage being an only child. It seems like there's this whole area of family dynamics that I just don't get. I've never had to fight it out with a sibling for a parent's attention and have rarely had anyone instinctively know my weak spots and flat out go for them. I haven't had to worry about my friends liking my sister better than me or my brother telling some boy that I had a thing for him. I'm totally unprepared for the sibling equation.

Once, years ago, when my kids were arguing and saying hateful, hurtful things to each other, I said (in an anguished voice) to the FG, "Can't they just be nice and treat each other like brothers?" At which point he gave me an incredulous look and said, "They are." He's the oldest of three (four with his step-sister) and the only boy. His sisters tell stories to this day that curl my hair (more than usual), and he has his tales to tell as well. They all think I'm weird for the way I act and I think they treat each other really badly a lot of the time.

I never had to talk over a sibling to make myself heard.

I never had to eat my first helping of dinner really fast so I could beat someone else to seconds.

I lived my entire life never having to hide ice cream in the back of the freezer to keep anyone from finding it.

I never ratted someone out for the sheer hell of it.

And I certainly never tormented someone when they were down just because I was in the mood.

Am I an only child, or what?

(Strictly speaking, I guess I'm technically not an only child, as I have four half brothers and sisters in Michigan from my dad's second marriage. But...I'm ten years older than the oldest one, I only saw them in the summer and it's really complicated. And sad. And a long, long post for one of these days).

Thursday after school Gumby was beat. I'd had to go and give him some allergy medication after lunch, he had a headache and he had a problem. The book report he'd known about for weeks was due first thing Friday and while he was done with the book, he'd been procrastinating about the report. He had a pile of other homework as well and he was mad because I had walked to get them and he wanted to drive home. I explained that my psychic powers were in the shop this week and asked why it is that no matter which way I pick them up - walking or driving - they always think I should have gone the other route.

He was upset enough that he was crying, and this upset me because it's really out of character. I was trying to help him come up with a plan to finish everything when Surfer Dude just decided to pick a fight for the sheer thrill value. Gumby, of course, being on edge anyway, took the bait and before I knew it they were going at it on the sidewalk. Verbally, not physically, but we were heading in that direction fast.

And they fought for the rest of the day. I explained to SD that Gumby was really stressed and maybe he should cut him some slack. So he did. And then Gumby picked a fight. Then I explained to Gumby that SD was trying to be nice and he should lighten up on him a little. So he did. And then SD picked a fight. And so on and so on until SD fell asleep and Gumby plodded on with his homework.

I simply do not get it. What am I missing here ?


Sweet Irene said...

I used to hate these kinds of things and never could figure them out because it all seemed so unreasonable. And I only had two kids. I must have had arguments like this with my older sister, who tormented me, but I don't remember how they went and how they were resolved. Selective memory? My kids argued, but I always thought it was so dumb and so futile. I never came up with a good strategy, at one point they grew up and stopped doing it. They get interested in other people and have their own lives and stop being focused on each other. It's tough to share everything with a sibling, I guess.

Altaglow said...

I'm sorry to say this but I think you're right. Being an only child is in many ways a disadvantage: Particularly if you grow up to be the parent of multiple children. Your children know more about fighting techniques and getting along in their situations than any "only " child would ever know.

I remember when they were younger that your three would do the two against one gang-up. The cast of two vignette would change according to the gusts of the weather but there would always be one child out. This was a dynamic that was competely new to me but you always managed to work it so that no one was left out for too long.

This is all just to say that I think you didn't know these things growing up but certainly have a handle on it these days because of your boys. And, FG is right. This is, I believe, the way things work in multiple children family groups. Love!

ciara said...

my brother and i got along quite well for the most part growing up that was until he married the bitch..errr i mean sister-in-law. i'm glad i wasn't an only child, i don't think i would've done very well. though being a girl i did have an advantage when it came to getting the things i wanted even though i was OLDER.

i PLANNED my 2nd daughter so that my first could have someone to grow up with. my son from a previous relationship was an only child for 10 yrs by this point so there was not going to be anything for him and the oldest sister to have in common. i notice some who were the only child that they don't know how to handle certain situations. my stepson didn't know how to handle not getting his own way when we came into the picture and actually neither did my first stepson. my current stepson gets emotional because he's never been taught how to deal w things of an emotional nature. i guess that's partly his parents fault, but i think having siblings help out w that, too.

anyways, i'm just rambling lol just know that that is the nature of siblings...whether it's brothers, sisters or a combo lol

Willowtree said...

Given that I haven't spoken to either of my brothers for years, I wish I had been an only child, it would have saved a lot of trauma and I'd still be where I am no anyway.

Swearing Mother said...

They're just in training for life, but arguing with people who love 'em really, so they're less likely to get seriously hurt (especially if you're there to stop the bloodshed). Just trying it on with each other, I guess.

They sound great.

Flowerpot said...

I've got 2 brothers and we used to fight like mad when we were kids - well, I did with the next one. Jealousy I thin. But we all get on fine now.

Dumdad said...

I'm one of five kids - I have 2 brothers, 2 sisters.

I have a good friend, an only child, who once told me he envied me because he'd never, ever know what it would be like to have a brother or sister.

I haven't been out with Angelina Jolie so I'll never, ever.....

Anonymous said...

I am the middle one, older brother, younger sister. I always fancied older brother's mates, made a complete idiot of myself on many ocassions. My sister is 6 years younger than me and I sometimes mother her but she's capable, more than me most of the time. We are all very different.

Amy, on the other hand is an only child and always will be. She does have 2 step brothers, 1 step sister and a half brother on her biological dad's side and she sees them about once a month. But she's quite happy. She has a great life.

Crystal xx

Potty Mummy said...

I'm one of three, and my nearest sibling (a sister) and I used to fight like cat and dog all the time whilst we were growing up. even now we both know EXACTLY the buttons to push if we want to wind the other up, and it isn't much. It can be as simple as curl of the lip or a single word.
We don't. Sis and I are now best friends. I know lots of people say that jokingly about their family but really, if there's anyone person I had to single out as best friend, it's her.
I bet your boys will turn out fine. I hope so - I have two of my own and I need an example to keep me positive!

laurie said...

what? you have curly hair? hahahhaha

honey, let's have coffee. and take a long walk. i'll tell you all about life.... i have NINE siblings. five girls, five boys. and we did all those cruel things you mention, and we still do.

and yet everyone i know comments on how close my family is. it's one of those weird contradictory things in life. nobody knows how to get my goat like a sibling!

laurie said...

(on the fourth of july of this year, over dinner on my mother's balcony, my little sister and one of my little brothers got into a screaming fight. SCREAMING. at the top of their lungs.

heidi is 45.

tommy is 48.

it never ends.)

Jen said...

This really is just a sibling thing. My brother and I are a little less than two years apart. I think I would have liked him better had we been farther apart. We fought. Constantly. We still don't talk much. I'm the bossy older sister, he's the lazy little brother who gets away with everything. It's hard sometimes to move past it. As long as they love each other sometimes, it will be okay. My hubby and his sister are eight years apart. They adore each other.

Jen said...

Oh, and thanks for giving me one more thing to worry about for when this child is born, RC. LOL

auntie barbie said...

My brother & sister had both left home by the time I was 8 and then we moved to another country. So I always kinda considered myself an only child growing up. I have to say that I missed having siblings around sometimes, but then I would spend time at my friends homes who had siblings and be glad I didn't have to compete with any of my own.
I think I reaped the benefits of being an "only" child, and given the choice I wouldn't change a thing.
My girls are 5 years apart and didn't start "fighting" until the oldest was about 11. They are grown now and love each other dearly but, they still push each others buttons all the time. Even long distance.

Kaycie said...

I have one brother, 2 1/2 years younger. I love him, I'd give him a kidney if he needed it, but if we spend more than a day or two together, I want to kill him. I'm 40, he's 38.

My mother is an only child. We used to make her cry from the things we'd say to each other. Or do to each other. What's going on with your kids is just part of having siblings. My three got sent to their bedrooms last night because I could just no longer deal.

At least they don't chase each other into bathrooms with knives or shoot each other with BB guns. It could be worse, RC. Really.

PixelPi said...

RC: What can I say? In a fit of rage against my sister at the age of 13, I threw a wooden cooking spoon across the entire length of the dining room from the kitchen and hit my 10-year-old sister right between the eyes. Just FYI, the lenses in my glasses were about coke bottle thickness. She immediately ran off screaming, "Mom, Pixel hit me in the head with a wooden spoon!" The emotional consequences of this incident still linger to this day over 40 years later. As Laurie says, it never ends. Never. Do you know how many times I wanted to be an only child with curly hair? Never happened.

ciara said...

btw i forgot to mention that my girls sometimes fight like 'cat n dogs', but they are also each other's best friend.

laurie said...

interesting observation from kaycie--my mom wasn't an only child, but almost. her one sibling, an older brother, was quite a bit older and then died in WWII. (she still weeps about it, and she's 80.)

she had no idea how to manage a family of 10 kids. and our fighting really appalled her. she'd never seen anything like it; she came from a family where her parents barely spoke to her or to each other. (i still don't know what that's all about.)

the ten of us? fighting, constantly,slamming doors, turning up radios, running up and down the stairs, pounding on the bathroom door hollering, HURRY UP!!!!, fighting some more, staying up long after lights-out giggling and reading, fighting over the last brownie, the last cookie, the last crumb of potato chips...

she coudln't understand it then and she still can't understand it now.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Poor gumby and poor you stuck in the middle.
But it is, well, kind of normal.
I'm one of 4, and we fought tooth and nail when we were younger, but we get on brilliantly now and I'm so gad I have them.

Jen, Misses E and M are almost four and a half years apart and get on brilliantly most of the time. So I'm sure your two wil be fine most of the time too.

Iota said...

Siblings are a great training for life. I firmly believe that. Life gives you hard knocks. If you've had siblings, you are prepared for that. I want to be more positive, but yesterday evening, I witnessed my 3-yo daughter stand in front of her two brothers (6 and 10) and say SIX times (I was counting) "Look what I bought today" in a really cute and engaging manner. Neither of her brothers could be bothered to turn their heads 2 inches away from the television to see what she wanted to show them. I prompted them to do so, and as I did so, I thought "this is very sad for her, but she understands that the world doesn't revolve round her, that other people have their own agendas". My oldest was never treated like that aged 3, and I think he is finding it harder to realise that there is world out there which doesn't have him as its axis. But he will learn and is learning - I'm not saying that only children grow up not understanding this. They just learn it in different ways, and later perhaps.

Sorry, long comment.

Iota said...

What amazes me is that siblings know how to fight each other, and fight hard, but know when its time to stop. Or when its just past being time to stop. They don't (I hope) actually physically hurt each other beyond what is acceptable. (I hope.) (I hope.)

Amy said...

I had a similar experience. My siblings are much older than I am, and when I had kids, their fighting drove me nuts. I worried they wouldn't be able to stand each other when they grew up. My sister said, "They're just fighting like sisters." I couldn't believe it was normal or that she was so nonchalant about it. Ah, well. It appears she was right.

headless chicken said...

Although I have a sister five years older than me and a brother five years younger I haven't seen or heard from my sister for many years and very rarely see or hear from my brother despite him only living in the next village.
Having five children myself I'm hoping that when they are older there will always be a brother or sister they can phone up for a chat or visit. I often feel like an only child and am quite glad that they (hopefully) won't.

my two cents said...

Try to look on the bright side, Sasquatch was very loving toward his brothers last week when their beloved pet died, which should give you a glimpse into what the future will hold. I think they are very normal brothers, a bit mischevious at times, but they'll grow up to be there for each other. My sister and I didn't always get along, but we are there for each other now. At least SD didn't say, "Dude, it sucks to be you. Want to go get a beer?"

Akelamalu said...

MWM is an only child and cannot understand sibling rivalry at all. He used to despair when the boys were younger because they always seemed to be at loggerheads. Now they are the best of friends! :)

Deb said...

I am in the midst of a discussebate with Hubby about the topic of a second child for this very reason. I am happy with an only. He is not, because he wants our son to have a sibling to "be there" for him when we are old and (presumably) dying. I pointed out that we both hate our siblings, and he still won't relent. *sigh* Okay, maybe I don't hate mine. Not both of them, anyway. ;)