Tuesday, January 08, 2008


It never mattered how much of a lead I was given – five runs, ten runs – I could never, and I mean never, ever, beat my older brother in a game of whiffle ball. If you were able to hit the back fence of our perfectly square yard, you automatically had yourself a trot around the bases homerun. Bobby nailed his target over and over and it was frustrating as all get out to have to pitch then whirl my head around to watch the ball sail out of reach and my brother take his time reaching first, second, third while the score tipped ever more heavily in his favor. It never mattered how determined I was, or how fiercely I choked up on that monstrous red bat, I could never, and I mean never, ever, put one past him. One, two, three, I was out and usually crying; nothing’s fair when you’re only nine and he is twelve.

He used to hide around the house until I’d shake with foreboding. At any moment, from any possible place, Bobby would jump forth and scare the living daylights out of me.

“Mom!” I’d yell, in my most annoying tattletale voice, “Bobby’s being mean again!”

“Then don’t play with him,” she’d answer, like always. Like every single other time I came to her with a similar complaint. My mom seemed less concerned then than I am now, watching with deja vu eight-year-old Elijah taunting six-year-old Priscilla with his two year age difference. “Be good to each other!” I yell, trailing them like a maternal shadow, micromanaging their interactions, turning molehills into mountains and feeling yucky about it. I am wondering now if moral suffocation is the best way to get a point across after all.

I have excellent kids, great kids, human kids who sneak lollipops when I’m not looking, shove junk under their bed on clean-up day, scream with frantic concern if one of their brothers or sisters gets hurt, call me from school to ask about a movie being shown (“Am I allowed to see that one, mom?”). They, like me, have good days and bad days, make positive choices and poor ones, deserve to be held accountable for every indiscretion and, yet, oh the grace of it, are continually forgiven. “What were you thinking?!” is such an accusatory, wall building, unanswerable conversation starter and yet I find myself picking at the scabs of my children’s mistakes with those very same words on a daily basis. Perhaps a log removal is in order, a remembrance of my own selfish nature; maybe love and consequences (minus the wordy and nitpicking lectures) is enough.

Bobby and I grew to respect each other immensely. My mom was right not to worry, not to beat us over the head verbally with the golden rule, but rather to keep her distance (to keep her sanity by setting boundaries). We fought, we got bored, we apologized on our own, and we have plenty of bonding memories to show for it. I want that for Priscilla and Elijah, for all of them: shared secrets, soft giggling after lights-out that I hear but take my own sweet time climbing up the stairs to put an end to, a relationship that transcends a mother’s well intentioned meddling. Nothing builds character quite like sharing a bedroom, sharing blood, sharing a childhood with your siblings - nothing keeps one humble like a few sweaty summers of getting the pants beat off you in whiffle ball by your hero, your rival, your friend.


Kelleylynn said...

Wow, I feel as if I am looking at the 6 year old YOU in Priscilla -- they are both too adorable.
My first two are 18 months apart - also first born being a son, Colin (10) and then a girl, Hannah (9 next week. They rival mercilessly! Then they are the Best of friends ralling against the 3rd - poor middle Mary Kate!
I have a twin sister and at 35 we still can rival! I wish for different circumstances -- but 90% of the time it's a great friendship.
My husband loves to teach on the Family and one day he asked our 3rd, dubbed "Sister Mary Sunshine", Why did God give us each other - why did He make us a family?
She swiftly, joyfully and confidently answered "So we can learn to love each other"

Anonymous said...

This is such a sweet post; it put a smile on my face :)
My brothers are 14 and 7 years older than me, but they always jokingly picked on me and still do now, in their thirties and twenties. But we all know that we love each other, and your post was just another reminder of that.

Michele said...

Try having them 6 years apart. My two boys are always fussin'. The worst part is that the 11 year old ALWAYS comes down in maturity to the 5 year old. I am going to stop those stupid cliche's like "What were you thinking" too? Man, what a log in my eye! Keep looking to Mary and asking her to intercede for you!


swede said...

I love this picture of Elijah and Priscilla.

When did they get so old? I still remember Pris with her little curly head of hair and how teeny tiny Elijah was when he was first born - too little for newborn diapers.