Okay, so death is not really on the line. Maybe more like screaming and shrieking to death. That’s probably the biggest risk involved here. And my hearing. My sanity? My own patience?
Anyone with two kids aged over 1 and over 3 have witnessed this:
SuperBoy playing happily with one truck. He zooms it. He shoves things into it. He talks to himself about what it’s doing. He proudly tells me what it’s doing “going to mass and then to the baseball game to bring the players their communion.” Doo dee doo.
SweetPea enters the scene. She had been happily coloring all over a coloring book from the 80’s (90’s?) from the thrift store. You know, long stripes of crayon in an erratic fashion. I glance over at it and wonder “should I be reinforcing circles, counter clockwise? Is this another example of her happily learning and experiencing on her own or am I supposed to intervene. If she were at pre-school, would a certified teacher be correcting her?” Then I decide that’s part of why she’s not at pre-school. And that if I get up, everything will hurt. She pops up and over to see where his truck is going.
Suddenly it happens. She shrieks before she sweeps. Like an eagle. Out of the sky. Onto its tiny mouse prey. And the tousle starts. NO NO IT’S MINE! he shouts as she full-body embraces the truck, splaying over it like that mean kid who licked all the cupcakes at the party so no one wanted his. Or maybe that was my brother, my mom’s chocolate chip cookies, and a regular occurrence if there were only 3 left. MINE! she retorts, intermittent with this new pig squeal she’s emulated from one of those books that makes noise (why didn’t I give that one away?).
He’s jumping up and down in place, literally wringing his hands, crying loudly that SHE’S BUDGING IN.
Here’s where the secret my mom taught me kicks in. He did it. He said the magic words she budging in. That’s his SOS. That’s the code for mom, please come help me extract my personal property from my greedy, grasping sister. That’s what he’s supposed to say instead of landing on top of her and living out WWF style tug-o-war to be reunited with his Holy-Communion baseball-team-delivery dump truck.
I stay calm and don’t shout too. I remind her in a stern voice, loud enough to be heard over the fracas, that he had it first. If she wants a turn, she has to ask. Politely. She totally understands. She’s 23 months and talking in sentences. Of course, the sentences are things like Big Darlin (her dollie no. 1) come down stairs??? Or I need Dada NOW. Or Nunu goes to New York, visits Tia Momo? But still. She gets it.
I praise him for letting me know she was budging in. He starts to calm down once he knows I’m on his side. I either verbally or physically extract her from the truck. I hold her while she flails and flaps. I quietly tell her no, it’s not her turn. Then I ask if she wants a turn. She does. But I tell her she has to stop fussing first. If she’s able to relatively quickly calm down, he gives her a turn. If she kicks up a bigger fuss, I take her with me to go and do something unrelated until she’s calmed down enough to then revisit the sharing.
This sounds like a real circus, and very time consuming. But, having practiced some variation on the theme of this for a few months, I gotta say it’s cut the fighting to almost nil. They both feel like they’re going to be protected and heard out. They both know they’ll get a turn eventually. And they’re both learning how to regulate their feelings from the inside-out. If that’s the only thing my preschool aged children learn, as they’re not at preschool right now, that’s wonderful to me. And one of the biggest life skills ever.