Sibling Rivalry 101

I hate conflict.

You could say that conflict and I have never gotten along and we likely will never become friends. I prefer hanging out with my pal, Passive Aggressive, over the other guy, Direct Confrontation, any day. But we know people have all kinds of different ideas and opinions, so conflict is (gulp) inevitable in relationships. This was a hard fact for me to swallow when I got married, especially since I married Mr. I-Love-Debating. :p  It’s taken me a good decade’s worth of work to be willing to look conflict in the eye, instead of avoiding it, but have no fear, I have plenty of more opportunities to face it. This is where my kids come into the picture!

I never realized how peaceful life was when we only had one child. Of course there was a lot of crying and screaming with our high need baby, but at least I knew how to deal with it (ie. meet E’s needs by feeding, holding him, etc).  However, three weeks after C joined our family and E realized there was a “no returns/no exchanges” policy on siblings, things began to get a little sticky.  This is when I got a crash course in Sibling Rivalry 101.  And ever since then, conflict has been a part of my every day life (faint!).

These are some of the things I’ve learned so far:
1. Siblings can fight over anything and everything.  Sometimes I think they just want whatever the other person has, regardless of what it is.
2. There is a resolution for every conflict, but cutting mom in half isn’t one of them (this was C’s suggestion for how she and E could share me).
3. Conflict can bring siblings closer (if they are taught how to work through it).  It’s amazing how E and C can say to each other, “I’m not your friend anymore!” and then, “You’re my best friend in the whole world” a few minutes later!

I’ve had to learn a lot of conflict resolution skills over the past few years.  It hasn’t been easy with my lack of experience in this area, but believe me, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have plenty of  opportunities to practice.  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to hear both sides of the story and to address each person’s feelings, especially if I was in the other room when the screaming started.  Once I know what’s going on, I can then give some advice on how to end WWIII and also prescribe a “make-up hug”.  🙂  I’m finding that the more we deal with conflicts, the less frustrating and emotional they are (at least for me) and the easier it is to move on from them.  But of course the fewer conflicts I have to deal with, the better!

I do have to say that I appreciate sibling rivalry for the good lessons that it teaches my kids.  Having a sibling means that E and C are learning how to share, how to wait and take turns, how to consider another person’s feelings and needs when making decisions, how to forgive when they are wronged, how to apologize, and most of all, how to develop lasting friendships.  They are light years ahead of me when I was their age in terms of their relationship skills.

Image courtesy of sattva/freedigitalphotos.net

Even though conflict isn’t my friend, I guess I shouldn’t consider it my enemy either.  It’s just one of those things that you can’t live with, yet you also can’t live without.

Check out Pentatonix’s cover of Sugarland’s song, “Stuck Like Glue“.  It reminds me of E and C’s bipolar friendship.  🙂

How did/do you handle sibling rivalry?

Quantity vs. Quality

Image courtesy of Daniel St. Pierre/freedigitalphotos.net

Whoever invented the buffet style restaurant must have been Asian cause what Asian would pass up cheap food and lots of it?! Eating a buffet is truly getting more for your money. I used to think it was a great deal, but now that I’ve tasted more foods and visited some fancier restaurants, I understand why some chefs (predominately non-Asian ones, lol) prefer to serve small portions of fresher and tastier foods. It all boils down to the question of quantity versus quality. Do you want to eat a meal consisting of a LOT of so-so tasting food or a few bites of delicious (albeit expensive) food? Of course if it’s possible to have larger portions of the latter (without having to drain your savings account!) that would be my ideal meal.

I started thinking about this whole quantity versus quality issue recently when I read yet another debate about it on a blog. But this time it wasn’t about food, it was about the time parents spend with their kids. To be honest, I think this debate is all an effort to put our parental minds at ease. In today’s world, with all the duties and distractions that we try to juggle in a 24 hour day, it’s easy sometimes to neglect our kids (I’m speaking from experience). But we all know kids demand, crave and need our attention!
Our current family situation is a good example of this debate. Hubby works full-time outside the house, which puts him on the quality time side of the argument (he really does give 110% with the kids when he’s home) and I stay at home all day, all night, every day, 24/7/365 (you get the idea!), so that puts me on the quantity time side. So who do the kids like more – cause they are the best judges of this debate? I’d like to say, “Me, do you even need to ask?” (haha), but the real answer is they like both of us equally, just in different ways. 🙂  They prefer Mama when they get hurt or feel sick or tired and they prefer Baba when they want to play and do fun, adventurous, borderline dangerous stuff!
In thinking more about the parent-child relationship, it seems that there’s a purpose for both quantity and quality time. This relationship is just like any other one and when it starts off, it’s basically two strangers trying to get to know one another. Believe me, if you have more than one kid, you learn they each have their own personality and you have to find different ways of relating to each one. So what better way to establish a new relationship with your child than to spend lots and lots of time together? Specifically speaking, this means spending countless hours feeding, burping, changing, holding and all the other seemingly mundane, repetitive tasks you do with a baby. However, all this quantity time that you spend helps familiarize you with your baby and his/her needs and builds up your baby’s trust in you.
Then as kids get older, there’s less hand-holding (and micromanaging, hehe) and more opportunities for answering questions and teaching life lessons, which definitely count as quality time. I’m finding now that even though E only attends school three hours a day, I already have a lot less time with him. I imagine we’ll gradually get less and less of his time, and C’s too, as they grow up and want to spend time with other people who are cooler than us (sniff!).  🙂
For me, this quantity versus quality time debate is challenging me to change my view of how I spend time with my kids. As a stay at home mom, I can’t just play all day (contrary to what hubby thinks!); I have chores to do, errands to run, all with the kids in tow. It’s hours upon hours of quantity time!  This is in comparison to hubby, whose time spent with the kids is usually fun and centered around what they like to do.  Inspired by hubby, I try now to think of my time spent with them as “shared experiences”, experiences which are mutually beneficial and should be mutually enjoyable (I’m working on the latter for myself!). So now when I’m doing chores, I try to involve them in the activities, which could include teaching them how to fold clothes or how to season salmon.  When we’re buying groceries, I show them how to pick out fruit or what buttons to press on the credit card machine (C’s already good at making purchases!).
What I’ve learned through these shared experiences is that most times my kids don’t care what we’re doing as long as we’re doing it together.  Of course it does require extra time and patience to get things done, but it’s encouraging to know that I can turn my quantity time with them into quality time.  Thinking about my time with the kids in this way makes it more meaningful and enjoyable…instead of never-ending!  It’s the moments when I’m stuck looking at my phone instead of paying attention to them or feeling frustrated that I can’t get anything done with them around that they are neither getting quantity or quality time with me.  I also lose because I miss out on deepening my relationship with them.  And relationships are what life should really be about!  🙂
Now, if there was only a way to turn a buffet meal into a gourmet experience! :pCheck out this fun song by Macy Gray, “Time of My Life“, which I hope describes the way my kids and I view our time together.

What do you think matters more – quantity or quality?