Peace Among My Men

by brenda maas All I want for Christmas is peace among my men. Seriously. The constant bickering, fighting, taunting and instigating between brothers in our household has left me feeling less-than-festive. Here’s an example. Getting into the car after school: “I call back seat!” “No, I call back seat!” “But I want the back seat ALONE!” It’s obvious that the latter needs to have the space of the third-row seat alone to de-compress, but in typical sibling fashion, one preys upon the other’s current weakness and exploits it. Wanting to threaten the loss of their Christmas stockings and worrying about the cars piled behind me in the loading line, I rally my brain for a solution. Later during the After School Races, walking into the YMCA for swim practice: “Hey! You shut that door in my face for no good reason.” “I did not. It shut on its own.” “Did, too!” “Did not!” At this point, number three (who has not yet been involved) “pretends” to trip and bumps into number two, who had the door shut in his face. We are near physical meltdown in the Y lobby. I want to walk away and pretend they aren’t mine but the physical resemblance blurts out the truth. As I disengage them, I wonder, has the Grinch mysteriously inhabited the bodies of my young sons? What happened to brotherly love in this season of joy? Well, for starters, we added two or three extra holiday zingers—like baking 12 dozen cookies to exchange or tromping off to Red Lodge to cut down a tree—to each day. Couple that with me getting less sleep because I’m making lists and checking them twice, and the end result is a not-so-jolly holiday season. Sound familiar? In her book Loving Each One Best: A Caring and Practical Approach to Raising Siblings, Nancy Samalin says, “The fact is, kids fight about anything and everything simply because it’s about the fight itself, not its content, that holds endless appeal. Parents forget that fighting can be fun, and it’s never boring.” So, add three energetic boys to a mother distracted by holiday madness and what do you get? Three elf-sized terrors vying for some attention and the top position on Santa’s—and mom’s—“good” list but going about it completely the wrong way. I see the North Pole’s “Naughty-Naughty-Naughty” sign flashing in my brain. In years past, I would work the Santa angle to the max. “Oh, you better stop fighting because Santa could be watching you right now.” Or, “You know, Christmas is coming and if you are naughty, Santa might bring you a lump of coal.” My over-use of that bribed-threat combo was disgusting but somewhat effective. This year, however, it has lost some of its power. About two months ago, my fifth-grader asked, “Mom, is Santa Clause real?” My gut reaction was to go along with the ploy but I recognized in his eyes a new, mature light and realized it was time to come clean. “Well, what do you think?” I asked, stalling (another favorite tactic, at least one that gives me more time to decide how to handle a crucial situation). “I want him to be real, but I don’t think he is,” was his reply. Before my eyes, my firstborn cut yet another thread of my apron-strings. But he was so sad, so deeply sad. And so was I. Like a baby tooth, he lost another piece of childhood, never to be regained. I needed to at least soften his hurt. “I wish he was real, too,” I said with a big hug. “But those who believe really do receive. And besides, I said, Santa really, really (wink) needs some helpers with your brother this year because they are a driving me crazy.” One silent look and we shut that mythical door behind us—together—and I had a partner in my Christmas crimes. And, maybe….just maybe, another deceptive helper in the quest for Peace Among My Men. SFM Brenda Maas lives south of Billings with her husband Brett and three energetic sons. When the ™brotherly love∫ gets too wild during the After School Races, the boys run laps around the parked car–a trick from Nancy Samalin's book that works quite well.