I think I broke up at least three fights today. At least. And one of them was while I was nursing. And by breaking up, I mean physically pulling two toddlers off of eachother to keep their skin in tact and us out of the emergency room.
And the hardest part? It can come out of nowhere.
Jack and Ben will be playing nicely together, hitting the ball back and forth, even taking turns. Then one of them decides it's their turn, but their brother doesn't agree. The first brother then launches an all-out attack against his sibling, running him over, tackling him to the ground and reaching for any skin to scratch or bite.
And it's not one brother over another. They take turns. Multiple times a day.
We pull them apart, talk to them about how else to handle the problem, how important it is to use our words... but we still find ourselves settling these disputes more than we ever did before.
It's difficult to tell whether or not this is a direct result of the baby. Things have been in a constant state of transition since Megan arrived, and as much as we've tried to keep things consistent, they know things are different now that we've added another member to our family.
Andy and I talk aaaaaallll the time about new strategies to give the boys the structure they so desperately need. We stress over whether or not we're doing the right thing, if we're allowing them too much freedom or how to give them more responsibility. We question our routine and whether the boys need more variety. We wonder if we're being too rough or too easy. We praise their positive efforts generously and try very hard to see that we're treating them as inviduals and not as much as a "set."
Yeah, we talk a lot.
And amongst it all, we easily get discouraged. It's hard work, this whole parenting gig! Add a newborn to the equation as well as a mom who's nursing (for the first time, really) and not getting a whole lot of sleep, is recovering from major abdominal surgery and whose emotions were always a big rollercoaster ride even before the baby arrived and you've got a recipe for discouragement!
And yet, life goes on.
After dinner tonight, I asked the boys if they wanted to help me make cookies. We had sort of run out of inside activities for the boys to do and since I KNEW they would be excited about helping me in the kitchen (and I was craving white chocolate chip macademia nut cookies!) I felt like it was a win-win.
They helped (and I use the word "help" veeeery loosely) me scoop the ingredients into the bowl and mix everything together. "DAD!" they yelled from the kitchen, "we makin' you tookies!" After they rolled the dough into balls and put them on the cookie sheet, I suggested we wash our hands again to get all of the dough off. I poured some water into the sink and squeezed a dollop of soap into each of their hands. Supervising the amount of splashing, I tried not to get discouraged about the fact that they both wanted to do it at the same time... that almost always leads to fights. I noticed Jack's hands go on top of Ben's, but before I had a chance to separate them, I realized that Ben wasn't upset by it. I decided to wait and see.
Jack was helping Ben. He was running his hands down Ben's, washing all of the dough off and into the sink. That's exactly what I do when I help them wash their hands after finger-painting (or more appropriately, HAND-painting.) I almost broke out in tears. Watching how gently Jack was helping his brother, especially after such a difficult day, was so encouraging. Once it was obvious that Ben's hands were clean, I suggested they finish up and dry their hands. "No, I'm keeping him warm," Jack told me. That boy is the best at coming up with new ways to stall, but it was so sweet I couldn't argue. A few seconds later, Ben said, "Okay, Jack, that 'nuff," and he obeyed.
I'm sure there are things we could be doing differently. Better. Gosh, there will ALWAYS be things for us to improve. But little incidences like this one tonight help remind me of one simple fact: I have boys. Two of them, in fact. And they happen to be the same age. They're not even three years old yet - in many ways, they're still babies! They fight. They play. They forgive, they forget, they love. We will continue to do what we can, but I'm going to have to keep reminding myself of these facts when we get discouraged. They're brothers.
It will take us years to perfect this whole parenting thing. Honestly, we may never get it even 75% right. But we will still try. In the meantime, I'm thinking we're going to be making a whole lotta cookies.