Friday, January 13, 2012

Family Harmony

Over the five years I've been blogging, I've enjoyed posting  pictures of family harmony at our house, but I'm afraid that in-so-doing I might have given the impression that it's all sweetness and light over here, that there's never any fighting.  But, oh, my goodness sakes.  Let me set the record straight: we get our good fair share of squabbling. I just don't generally have the camera in my hand when I'm the on-ice referee throwing players in the penalty box!

It's just this, and no gettin' around it:  any group of two or more people confined to limited space and using the same bathroom is going to wind up disagreeing about things.  Sometimes calmly and politely, sometimes not.  It's a fact of life parents have to come to terms with.  And, while the inevitability of it may make a Mom want to run for the hills (for a quiet little cabin, maybe, with a lock on the door), all the bickering and banging together of heads can also be looked at as a right of passage into adulthood and an opportunity to learn some really important things about human interaction. To wit:

1 There's a right and a wrong way to communicate displeasure.
     a)  Hitting your brother with the butt of a Nerf rifle is the wrong way.
     b) Slamming a caprine syringe through your brother's hand is the wrong way.
     c) Cracking an egg on your sister's head is the wrong way.

2.  No matter how much a person would like to be, no one of us is the center of the universe.
     a)  Just because you got a chocolate orange in your stocking does not mean all chocolate oranges belong to you.
     b)  The world is not going to stop because you're having a bad hair day. (Dangit)
     c)  You are not the only person who ever has a bad hair day.
     d)  It's highly unlikely that anyone but you is going to notice you're having a bad hair day.

3.  Kindness begets kindness; unkindness you get right back on the snoot.
      a) If you had shared your chocolate orange with your sister, she would probably share hers with you now that yours is gone.
       b)  If you French braid your sister's hair for her, she'll tell you how beautiful your bouffant is, even if you don't think so.
      c) If you hit your brother with the butt of a Nerf rifle, don't be surprised if he throws a hard, plastic Noah's Ark elephant at your head.
     d)  If you crack an egg on your sister, well, you better just watch your back from here on out.

These are all hard lessons to learn; it takes years for them to finally take hold in most children -- and as too many of us in the adult world know, some people never do learn them!  Either they never got the memo, or they figured it wasn't for them.  We might finally have true peace to earth -- or at least in our own living rooms -- if babies were born with the capacity for perfect self control, the maturity of tactful expression, and the angelic perfection of patience and charity.  But, alas!  The little buggers almost always come into the world with the wrong ideas about just about everything.  After about six months of sweet goohs and gahs (if we're lucky enough not to have a colicky baby), the infant version of the will rears its head and the real work of a parent begins.

One-year-olds must be told they can't say "no" to Mommy and Daddy.  Two-year-olds have to learn that they can't have everything they see.  Four-year-olds need to know that the world doesn't revolve around them.  Though you try to break it to them gently, six-year-olds usually find out the hard way about an eye-for-an-eye.  And, then, when you think you've finally drummed it all  into their sweet curly little heads, the little darlings turn twelve and forget everything you ever taught them.   -sigh-  It's the life of a parent: our life's work. And it's exhausting, no kidding!  But it's important.

Because, ya know, tiresome as they are, those daily little kafoffles -- the scuffles, arguments, grudges, miscommunication, and stupidity -- are the training ground where parents do some of our most vital work. It's our job to catch the flying fists and steer the kids out of the boxing ring, or at least referee them safely to a peaceful solution -- for however many times a day we need to do it, for however many years it takes.  It's possible, I guess, for children to learn how to live in peace with their fellow human beings on their own or just by the school of hard knocks, but the lessons will be more surely honed if guided by the loving hands of parental referees.  And, though, our main aim is always going to be to be peace in the home, it's also with a parent's loving care that a child should learn what really is worth fighting for.

It was one of my proudest moments as a mother when I heard how my oldest son had flattened a friend at a party when he was in college.  It may have been in jest, or under the influence of a beer too many, but it seems a young man Paul knew made a scurrilous remark about the Catholic Church, and the next thing he knew -- without even thinking, he told us later -- Paul had socked the guy on the jaw so hard he knocked him on the floor.

That's my boy.

 I love that it was totally instinctual for him to defend his Faith.  There are few things really worth fighting for, but that one is at the top of the list.  That, and defending his wife or sisters or other women -- and maybe if someone has the gall to insult Tim Tebow in their hearing.

Yes, admittedly, it's true that in most situations, a carefully worded and gentlemanly debate would be preferable, but every once in a while, a sock in the jaw is just the ticket.

Of course, don't tell my six and seven-year-olds I said that. We'll spring the notion on them later when they're past the throwing toy elephants stage.  Uh. Maybe.


auntie said...

Here, here!!!!! I just love you and your kids. Believe you me I was never under the misguided impression that there was always hearts, flowers and peace on earth in your home. Having five sons and one daughter cured me of that right around child number three. Bless your son too. The Catholic church, wives, sisters, and mothers are off limits when it comes to topics of malignant discussion.

AnchorMama said...

I couldn't have put it better. In fact, I'm not even going to try. I'm so linking to this post!

GrandmaK said...

Relived the raising of my 5 in every word of this post! Thanks for the memories,the good and the growing pains-ful ones! Good for you/us! Cathy

Alexandra said...

LOL, sister did this very thing to me when I was being an annoying little sister.

Soutenus said...

Great post!
I am passing it on to my kiddo!