Sibling Rivalry

I have complained about how my kids bicker too much. It is so annoying. They can be so mean to one another and to me. And I know deep down we all love one another.

The other day H. and I were bickering at the bookstore. He needs his summer reading books, 1984 and the God of Small Things. I said the version didn’t matter, he said he must have the exact, specified version. I had a get-it-done attitude; he had a wait-and-see attitude.

I was embarrassed when another mom friend, L., interrupted our disagreement just to say hello.

“Oh, sorry, we were just fighting,” I explained. “We fight a lot.”

“Fighting’s good,” she said. L’s a teacher and I believe her. Respectful disagreement is healthy.

One of my favorite phrases in an argument, and one that I always hope is a closer, is, “Let’s agree to disagree.”

I realized that my desire for my kids to never fight, bicker, or disagree puts undue pressure on them. Maybe even my attempts to squash their sibling rivalry somehow escalates their fighting. As if they unconsciously realize, “Great, now Mom’s in the fight, too. Let’s fully commit to this argument.” And then the yelling escalates.

At times, I do flip out. “Don’t you realize your arguing creates an impact! We are kind, loving parents. You are not being kind and loving!” The kids are too competitive. Or maybe they simply can’t help being mean, like when they point out one another’s pimples. I can’t figure it out.

I show exasperation.

And sometimes having a human and impatient response pays off. Recently after my kids were in a yelling match, my son went to play ball. On his way home, he phoned me. “Mom, I’m passing the grocery store. Do we need anything?”

I was shocked. “Yes, we need juice and milk.” I was totally pleased. And yesterday, the kids did pitch in and tidy up the apartment, even as they fought about how little the other person was doing, and how much they were doing. (See what I mean? Competitive!)

I had set the timer for 10 minutes. I said, “That’s all you have to do! Ten minutes.” But  an hour later, H. was still working, hammering loose cords into the molding.

Small victories. But I’ll take them. And I’ll take the fighting because I have no choice. I do have a choice in my response to their sibling rivalry. I will not let it get to me.

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The Mother of All Churches — Full of Surprises

At the Baton Rouge restaurant in Montreal, our waiter Sebastian was rattling off nearby tourist attractions. He said, “The big cathedral past Chinatown is very nice. Celine Dion was married there.” I’m not usually going to churches based on a celebrity endorsement, but what the heck, I was on vaction.

We walked up the hill towards Old Montreal. The church was full of surprises – the first of which was the cost — $5 for adults and $4 for kids just to enter. $22 later, I was hoping that it was worth it.

It was worth it. The church was a riot of color and as pretty as rainbow sherbet. I was in love with the light of the ceiling and altar — a Robin’s Egg blue.

We joined the English-speaking tour group. We heard about Montreal’s origins –  to convert the heathens.

The next big surprise was the chapel. I imagined more of the same — a Neo Gothic church/wedding cake — frills, curliecues and gold stars. Not at all.

Walking into this chapel, the woman behind me gasped. It was full of light.

The massive bronze altar sculpture showed three archways representing childhood, middle age and old age (death). It was not all crucifex-y and literal like some churches. It was symbolic –The symbols

of the trinity were a sun, a dove and a kind, smiling man. It was all bright and yellow (almost as pretty as the Louise Nevelson church, one of my faves!)

The artist of the Sacré-Coeur chapel for Notre-Dame Basilica, Charles Daudelin (aka ‘genius’) created this masterpiece after a fire in 1978 destroyed the Gothic chapel. So there’s an inspiring lesson:

Sometimes a devastating turn of events can lead to some great modern art.

I dug the nativity scene in the modern chapel because the women figured so prominently. This was the church of Mary and I do appreciate churches that celebrate women.

The tour ended and my daughters got in a fight. See, to light a candle and make a prayer, you had to pay a dollar. I only had one single. I gave the dollar to Charlotte and told her to “Share a prayer. Or light two candles. It doesn’t matter.” But Catherine felt if we lit two candles, “We’d be lying in a CHURCH!”

Charlotte eventually resolved the bickering by telling Catherine that she’d put two dollars in the collection box. Catherine was appeased and lit her candle. Then Charlotte told her twin she had been lying and she’d only put in one dollar. The fighting began again.

I told the girls that this is part of the history of Christianity. “I think the Holy Wars were fought over this. The Reformation was about not having to pay to pray.” I told them, “God hears the prayers of the poor as equally as the prayers of the rich.” They didn’t care. They just wanted to light their damn candles.

This is how sibling rivalry goes. They ebb, they flow. They lie, they fight. They pray. They light a candle. They’re hungry and they want to leave this stupid place. I, meanwhile, enjoyed this church very much.