Monday, August 23, 2010

Brothers and Sisters

Siblings: obscuring the lines between laughing and crying, playing and fighting, helping and hurting... since the beginning of time.

Right now Harper and Michael are "playing" in her room. I have learned in recent days that "playing" probably means she is telling him to be a pirate and they are jumping off their ship (her love seat) into the ocean (a nest of pillows and blankets and cushions piled on the floor). I hate this game, mostly because when it is lunch time and I ask them to clean up, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth and protesting that Michael got most of it out but won't help!

BUT I am letting them do it because here what isn't happening right now:

1) No one (Michael) is biting anyone else (Harper).

2) No one is crying.

3) No one is screaming.

4) No one is claiming the other one has something the first one wants.

Now Harper knows I don't like the game they're playing. This is why I'd bet you a large sum of money that she has her door locked. And they are probably giggling and feeling like they are getting away with something.

I'm kind of old-school when it comes to kids and manners and respect and blah, blah, blah. I'm not easy on them, especially Harper. But I do think that kids need some space - to be left to fend for themselves in their play - to think that we don't know what they are up to. That's where play lives, really, in the spaces we allow them - in the quiet they have to fill themselves and in all the messy and unorthodox navigating they do on their own.

Plus, this kind of play keeps the temporary peace. I am generally shocked and appalled at how much my kids fight with each other. And I am extremely hesitant to break up those fights - I intervene if someone is genuinely getting (or about to get) hurt, of course - but I tend to let them be for fear they will never learn to work it out on their own if I don't.

I'm just starting to get a glimpse of a more peaceful coexistence - maybe it is just that Michael is finally old enough to play pretend in a way Harper appreciates, maybe it is his burgeoning language skills, maybe she has grown more patient. Whatever it is, these times when they are genuinely enjoying each others company are rare and I will, for now, let them continue whatever mischief they are brewing.


Pam said...

Oh thank God for this post. I was beginning to think I was alone with two kids that were absolutely NOT like the Waltons. I've been wondering if I intervene too much and how to let things go, so this is a big help. Thanks - I think you are doing things exactly right and I'm going to copy you ;-)

Swistle said...

We too are highly tolerant (even to the point of willfully turning a blind eye) of play where the kids are GETTING ALONG. It's such a relief to see it!

Emily said...

Is this post a comment on my most recent call for advice? Cuz it could be. :) I know we talked about it some when I was at your house, too. I appreciate hearing your take on it. I'm trying to figure it out one day at a time.

CARRIE said...

My kids have a thing about jumping off furniture into a pile of pillows/blankets.
Same thing with my 6-year-old and almost 3-year-old....sometimes it is all I can do not to whack their heads together because of the incessant fighting.
So when they play well....I generally don't care what they are doing so long as 1. the baby doesn't get in the middle and get hurt, and 2. it lasts a good long time.