Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Family that Fights Together...

Aah... last night Texan Papa and I dragged brought the kids to a local county park for a hike in the woods.

It was 75 degrees outside. A little overcast. We went at 5pm. We brought fishing poles and water bottles. And yet, you'd think we were forcing them to walk on hot coals and eat grasshoppers.

"I want to go hoooooommmmmmeeeeeee"
"Is this over yet?" "Is this over yet?" "Is this over yet?" "Is this over yet?" "Is this o...."
"give me my stick. This is MY stick. Yes it is. YES IT IS."
"Wait for me!"
"C'mon, hurry up!"
"Can I watch TV when we get home?"
"Mom, stop taking pictures!!"

 When we got back to the minivan, Texan Papa said, "I just can't do this." I looked at his exhausted, exasperated expression. He looked physically tired, but also mentally beaten. I could relate. We'd been listening, for the last 90 minutes, to complaining, arguing, bickering, sibling rivalry, pessimism, and just generally pissy attitudes.

It's moments like these that I think of the Duggars. I always think of the Duggars. How in the hell do they all like each other so damn much?

I love my family. Really. More than I know what to do with. But like them? uh....

Liking the members of my family isn't an instant thing. I think love comes naturally but like... it's a daily commitment. We have to treat each other as we want to be treated. We have to be patient with each other. We have to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We have to (oftentimes) put ourselves second. We have to remember that fair doesn't always mean equal. We have to try to get along with people who we're forced to be together with, rather than people we choose to be with.

Summer is always a trying time, especially for families who are... how shall I say this... FRUGAL. We don't go out very often (due to the expense of taking 7 people anywhere). We spend our money on tuition and home improvement projects. We drive old cars so we can stay out of debt. All this is financially good but I do worry that we're not creating any special memories for our children.

BUT! {Here's the part where I don't wallow in self-guilt} I realize it's not my job to entertain them. I am all about having fun with them, but I am not going to MAKE the fun for them. For example, my kids have bikes. Toys. A Wii. Close proximity to a public library and park and convenience store. We live on 15 acres. They have fishing poles and BB guns and a giant wagon with knobby wheels. They have hiking shoes and backpacks and - most of all - they have an imagination. They need to put it to use. They need to think about how to entertain themselves!

My kids are normal kids. They fight with each other. Then other days, they get along famously and I wonder what has changed. Right about that time they start chasing each other around the house and someone eventually gets a beat-down.

But I wish so much that my kids would look out for each other's feelings a little more. I wish they would try to look at their brothers & sisters as though they had something important to offer the family (which they do!) I wish they would honor each other.

I'm probably being a little too idealistic. I think part of the problem is that I *WANT* my kids to treat each other respectfully and with honor, but I don't teach them how to do that. I've tried, and I will continue to try. But, I mean... damn. It's a huge job. breaking up the little bickering arguments, explaining EXACTLY how one person lost patience and reminding them to give their sibling the benefit of the doubt, listening to every word, every voice inflection, every sigh or tsk, trying to keep conversations headed on the right path. All too often, I am mentally and emotionally defeated before lunchtime.

I have to keep believing that if I keep it up, it will pay off one day. That a time will come when my kids can all sit in a room together without farting on each other or pulling someone's hair or calling them stupid-head.

I wonder if my mom ever thought these things.

Texan Mama


Foursons said...

They will probably still be picking on each other when they're in their 30's but they will have a mutual respect and love for each other too. Keep doing what your doing, I believe it will pay off in the end.

Jennifer said...

I've been there. Sometimes I'll plan this "family fun activity" that I think will be awesome and a great bonding experience and the kids are just in a bad mood and ruin it. For me. I think sometimes we get these white picket fence images in our heads of how things should be, but that's just not life. Life is bickering and hugging and liking one another one day and the next day not. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. And sometimes you have to tell them if one of them utters one more negative comment that they are all going to bed as soon as you get home.

Gigi said...

This is so normal; I think. The only one mine had to argue with was us. But the one thing I have learned is this - keep telling them. Eventually, some of it sinks in; even when you think they aren't listening. And then one day they will surprise you.

But yeah - I also think even when they are grownups they will still call each other stupid-head; but by they will mean it as a term of endearment.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

WHen you figure out how to get them to honor each other, let me know. Because whatever I'm doing is not working.

Kate said...

So often we are 1/2 way or further to something that we planned to do (and spent $$ to get the 7 of us there) and I'm like WHY THE F DID I WANT TO DO THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE?! but there are times when they reminisce and recall funny/cute things that happened that I may not have noticed while I was shooting their sibling "the look" lol

Amy said...

All those romanticized ideas of family bonding are the product of after school specials. Some women read romance novels to find that perfect man, some of us watched those family movies to find the perfect family experience. The truth is... all this stuff is teaching them - they are being real, exposed, and honest. They haven't yet learned to control all their "realness" yet, and this is how it gets molded into something acceptable so they don't smack the secretary over the head with a stapler when they're 35.

I was always so busy trying to make it perfect... but our best memories are when the milkshake went EVERYWHERE, or the tent was filled with water, or we shared something because we couldn't afford one for everyone. Occasionally there's a scary story like a child chasing another through the house with a dangerous weapon of some sort... but in 20 years, they laugh at their shared ridiculousness.

No one knows your family like your brother does. No one has those memories of the OTHER sibling being such a pest except your sister. No one else knows all the things you whispered hatefully about your mother when you were sent to your room together... and knows you didn't really mean it.

I like where you went with this article - back to the basics of family - home. Not the zoo or the museum, but the woods and the yard and the pond and the living room. That's where you build a family.

Kara Schoenecker said...

Love your blog. I came from a large family- 5 girls. We lived frugally as well, we always had enough but nothing extravagant. We fought, loved, fought some more. Our parents did their best. Now we are all adults and VERY different people. Do we all get along perfectly today? To be honest, no. But life isn't about the white, picket fence and fairytale world. Would I be there for any of my sisters if they needed me? Absolutely, and that is what counts in the end. Blessings to you.