“Muuuuuum, he just threw a piece of paper at me”.
“Well, she just said she didn’t like Batman”
“Only because he said he wouldn’t be my best friend any more”
This is the kind of standard row that happens all the time between my eldest two. It is all so totally pointless and ridiculous that, if it wasn’t so annoying, I would laugh at them. But ooooooh, it is annoying. It is extremely annoying. They can’t just have a row, sort it out and get over it. They have to report it back in minute detail to me, so that not only do I have to hear it once when it kicks off, I also get a blow by blow account of the various misdemeanours committed by both parties when they go and ‘tell’.
Sometimes H and M get on like a house on fire, but then they have days when they seem to do anything and everything to wind each other up. I know all siblings bicker and I don’t think mine are worse than others but they seem to be going through a rather snippy phase at the moment and pretty much anything is an excuse to get at each other.
The other day, I was woken up by the above ridiculous exchange as both kids burst into the bedroom at some ungodly hour. I tried, in a bleary-eyed way, to point out how meaningless and inoffensive their apparent insults actually were but they were both mortally offended by the other’s behaviour and refused to see how ludicrous they were being. It ended with M picking up my slipper and throwing it limply at H’s feet. Cue outrage from H, denial from M (despite having done it in full view) and all out yelling from everyone. Good morning!
And it didn’t get any better. Before breakfast, they had managed to have two more substantial arguments. By school drop off, I was delighted to be splitting them up for a few hours.
There are two main problems with the dynamic between my H and M. The main one is that H is an emotional firework. It takes very little for him to be pushed over the edge into tears or screaming. He doesn’t take a joke well and he takes everything very much to heart. The poor lad was unfortunate enough to have inherited his Dad’s short fuse and lack of patience along with my sensitivity and (slight!) tendency to melodrama. As gene mixes go, it is pretty explosive. I hope it will calm down as he gets older and gains some perspective. Making every molehill into Ben Nevis and then blowing it up with dynamite doesn’t make for a very easy existence.
The other problem is that M is too smart by half for a four year old and a very quick learner with an equally quick mouth. She knows exactly what to say to create maximum impact, which buttons to press to send H into a spinning emotional meltdown. He can’t simply say “I don’t care if you don’t like Batman”, he takes it as a personal slight which escalated into the end of the world in a matter of seconds. M is often left looking artfully doe-eyed and innocent, having caused total mayhem. I’m sure she would fool most, and she even fooled me to begin with, but I have the measure of her now. She is a much better liar than her brother and has perfected a convincing wounded look, despite being the one in the wrong.
The arguments can be about literally anything. This morning, they were fighting over whether M’s baby was real. They both actually agreed that Baby Cupcake was a toy, but M was outraged that H had said so. I know, it makes absolutely no sense, but that doesn’t stop them screaming at each other about it at full volume at 7am.
Problems usually start when H gets all big brothery and condescending when M can’t quite express herself or do something as well as he can. I think he is a bit insecure as she is, like most little girls, leagues ahead of where her brother was at the same age. He likes to put this precocious young upstart down a bit – something I absolutely cannot stand – and also rather ill advised as she is closing the gap fast and will be able to run verbal rings around him before long, I shouldn’t wonder.
The worst bone of contention is gaming time. They both love playing Lego Batman on the XBox but, being only four, M isn’t great at it. For H, Lego Batman is probably the most important thing in his world right now. He just absolutely lives for it and takes it extremely seriously. As a result, he gets apoplectic when M fails to pull the right lever or deck the right baddies when instructed to do so. M does her best but her Robin spends a good deal of time jumping off high ledges to his death in a pit of oozing green slime, or running headlong into walls.
The tone of voice H uses to his little sister when this game is underway drives me crazy. I simply can’t stand hearing an older kid getting at a younger one, simply because they are too small to be able to manage something yet. It is a pet hate of mine and makes me fume. When H gets into one of these nagging moods, he is so rude and condescending to his little sister, who is trying her best, that I can’t stand the injustice of and I jump on him. I can’t help myself leaping in to defend my little one. As a result, Lego Batman sessions tend to end in H yelling at M, me yelling at H and then both kids yelling at me for turning the bloody thing off. That game is honestly way more trouble than it is worth. I thought games were supposed to keep kids quiet. Pah.
So, as you can see, I feel like a referee, dealing with such a high number of rows on a daily basis. And, much as I am desperate for Baby T to start chatting, I do worry a bit about what a third little voice will add to the discord. He already comes in for his fair share of verbal abuse but it is all one way so far. T is known as Destructor Baby and he stomps around the house knocking over painstakingly constructed Lego towers, drawing on works of art and sucking prized possessions. The kids get pretty cross and yell at him, to which he usually just scribbles back, happily. H declared recently “I hate babies”, which made me sad but I know he doesn’t mean it and it is kind of understandable. After all, “babies are a pain in the bottom”, as M calmly observes after Destructor Baby has caused yet more mayhem.
But the baby grunts are turning into attempts at words. When he starts being able to say the basic combative words, like “mine” and “no”, then we will have a third fighter in the ring. I thank my lucky stars that my kids are not very physical and rarely come to blows apart from the odd half-arsed lob or push. But the verbal fireworks are set to increase very soon. I may have to invest in a megaphone, and a good set of earplugs.
Angry faces directed at Destructor Baby for stealing sticks in a recent stick pie game.
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