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Double Trouble

The other day we neglected our son in the name of family unity.
My husband and I had been trying to make plans to get to San Francisco alone for a while, and since it hadn’t worked out, we knew we had to take the kids. Or at least one of them. The combination of both of them lately has been volatile. Our daughter is easily excited or irritated, and our son has been hard at work pushing her buttons. He does something to irritate her, she screams, and life in a closed-up car immediately becomes intolerable. Or she says something charmingly six, like “Did you know that if you climbed to the top of that redwood tree you can touch the clouds? Really!” and he responds as irritatingly ten: “That’s not true. Clouds are hundreds of feet up in the air.” A fight ensues. Bickering again makes the car ride intolerable.
It’s pretty easy to find someplace to park a computer-obsessed ten-year-old. We left him and his computer at my parents’ farm with orders to help Grandpa in the garden for at least part of the time. Then we took off with our usually-difficult daughter as an only child.
Of course, she was a dream.
She told us charming stories, she read to us from Magic Treehouse (her current favorite reading material), she whined a bit when we were still a half hour away that San Francisco is WAY too far away and we should NEVER go there again! But she was easily calmed and onward we drove, serene and happy.
We met friends with a four-year-old for lunch. If our son had been there, our kids would have been getting on each other’s nerves as we waited to be seated. Instead, I took our daughter to see the amazing four-story fountain with water that drips from a glass ceiling and hits a sloped part of the tiled floor outside the restaurant. We talked about how it worked. She thought that she could see pipes running through the glass ceiling. Had our ten-year-old been there, he would have had a competing theory, which is fine in itself but enraging to our six-year-old who is trying to figure out why the world doesn’t always bow to her wishes. But since he wasn’t there, I just appreciated her theory, whether or not it made sense.
We had lunch with our friends. Our daughter and their son went to climb on a railing when they were done, returning for spoonfuls of Chinese mango pudding. We were able to have a fun, engaging adult conversation punctuated with interruptions from our two children. There were no disputes to settle, no hitting, name-calling…
It was like a dream. Perhaps I should have thought more carefully when my only-child husband said he’d be fine stopping at one! It’s not that either of our kids is really impossible to deal with on their own — it’s the combination, and the present level of friction, that is driving us wild. But ya gotta be happy with what ya get: we have two, and they are both wonderful. I should, of course, mention that if we had brought our ten-year-old alone, he would have been charmingly ten and we would have been relieved to be able to spend time with him without the distraction of his sister and the tension between them.
I was one of five kids. My parents seldom got alone-time with any of us. When we went places, it was instant party or instance chaos, depending on how you looked at it. But I think five is actually easier, in a sense, than two. Our kids expect our full attention. And because there are two of them, it’s like instant opposition. With five, siblings can take sides if they want, but with two, sides are formed before the dispute is even decided on.
Our kids can fight about anything!
On the other hand, they do actually love each other. Recently my daughter drew a picture that said, “I love you, Mommy, you, Daddy, and most of all you, my brother.”
One of these days, she might actually show it.

Posted in Parenting.


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