Wednesday, May 17, 2006

House Rules

Everyone says it's normal, it's age-appropriate and it's to be expected, but I'll be damned if I'm not shocked everytime Hazel sidles up to Violet, with that look in her eye, and pushes her over, swipes her toy, or pokes her in her face.

Sibling rivalry.

Being three.

Testing boundaries.

Whatever you call it in your house, I call it a big ol' pain in the ass in mine.

I'm beginning to understand why some people choose to have their children close together -- because when your oldest kid is in the throes of Three, a nearly defensless, newly-minted toddler is just fuel for the fire. It's like Violet is walking around with a sign on her forehead that says "Trip me!" or "Someone, please, take this cookie!"

I feel for Hazel, I really do. For 2 1/2 years, she was our one and only: a star on the family stage. How dare this little baby, this interloper, come along and try to steal the spotlight?! Who does she think she is, walking around here with her cuteness, and her new words, and her demands for attention, for love, for Mama?

It seems like the older Violet gets, the more fun, the more human, the more Hazel resents her. She has moments in which she is deeply besotted with Violet, to be sure -- usually when Violet is in her highchair, or nursing first thing in the morning, or just waking up from a nap in her crib. The moments in which Hazel genuinely dotes on and cares for Violet are those in which Violet is contained and subdued. More like the baby she was, less like the girl she is.

Last night as he was putting Hazel to bed, Mike heard Haze say, to no one in particular and apropos of nothing, "I don't care that much about having a baby sister. I'd like to share her. I would like to give her to a family that doesn't have a baby, but wants a baby."

While being kind of funny in a way, this makes me sad, for many reasons. I'm sad for Hazel, because I know she feels genuinely threatened by Violet, despite all the love, attention and one-on-one time we give her. I'm sad for Violet, because she thinks Hazel is an absolute goddess, and is always shocked and upset when she pops her one out of nowhere. It's just sad-making, to see one's two babies at odds so often, not to mention completely annoying. I know she can't help herself -- Hazel just knows that she wants my attention, and that she wants Violet out of the picture. She'd like to be able to put her away, up on a shelf, and take her down on her own terms. I know that her feelings are normal, and healthy, even -- hell, I feel like that about Hazel, sometimes! I know - but it's still it's so frustrating!

Hence, The House Rules.

Hazel and I brainstormed this morning at the breakfast table, and this is what we came up with, together. All four of us signed our names at the bottom of the list, Violet keeping the marker out of her mouth long enough for me to help her with her "V." Violations of the established House Rules result in time-outs, on a stool in the little enclave across from the House Rules poster. Time-outs that are not repected on the stool in the little enclave across from the House Rules poster are moved to the bedroom.

So far today, no time-outs have been needed. Considering that it's already almost 4:00, we've had a pretty freakin' good day. I'm happy for that. Know what else would make me happy? Hearing from you. How do you keep sibling rivalry at bay? What's your secret to happy kids? What are your House Rules?


Anonymous Chris said...

I wonder if Mike remembers the time he saw Charlotte bring Stella to her knees by her hair, he and Shane thought it was awesome. I guess the closeness in age is an advantage!

8:05 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

You are supernanny, aren't you! I'm duly impressed.

11:27 PM  
Blogger me said...

what Chris failed to mention is that we've resorted to fighting it out. we're full up with bloody noses and black eyes and bruises in this house, and don't even get me started on what the girls are doing to each other.

i think there will always be sibling rivalry no matter what the age difference, and no matter what is done to try to prevent it. i think it's good and healthy and normal, and will (eventually) help them both with their conflict resolution skills.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Green said...

Whatever you do, don't do what my parents did. Even though I was the younger one, for some reason I totally used to hit my older brother, and my parents gave him carte blanche to "hit her back, twice as hard."

I think it's sweet that at least your older one wants the baby to be shared, and with another family that needs a baby. It's a good sign.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous urban child bride said...

Aww! Hazel's comment about wanting to give Violet to a baby-less family made me want to hug her! She clearly wants to do the right thing, but it's just so hard sometimes. (When I was Hazel's age and my brother was Violet's age, I told my mother to "throw him in the garbage." Clearly, Hazel is much more compassionate.)

Truly, it sounds like you're doing a great job. I love that everyone signed the House Rules. My husband and I don't have any children (yet), but we're not beyond giving ourselves time-outs when needed.

10:18 AM  
Blogger lesley said...

dude, i'm 31 and i still have sibling rivalry.
and come to think of it, i've never once blamed my parents...

11:14 AM  
Blogger Debbi said...

Space them 18 years apart!!! Worked for me. I have a built in babysitter. Big brother shares his Super Nintendo and teaches little sister all the secret places of the games. They never fight over toys. The only rule is Hannah cannot go into his room without his permission or knocking when he's home. And she respects that rule so far. LOL. Sounds like you have it down though. All kids are different. Gary had attitude problems at about 5 or 6 through pre-teens and whenever he would act meanly toward me or talk disrespectfully, I would tell him to take his bad attitude outside and leave it by the curb because I loved him but the attitude had to go. He would go outside and hang by the car for 15 minutes sometimes and when he'd come in the attitude had been left by the curb. I do the same with Hannah, works like a charm. It's like self inflicted time out.

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Patti said...

Like Super Sugar Star, my girls have reached the "duke it out" stage. We are about one Molly Bullying away from a Maggie Backhand, and I'm honestly looking forward to it.

My role at this point: protect them from any serious harm, advise them of alternative ways to handle their disputes, and then back off and let them make their way.

3:20 PM  
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