Growing up, siblings close in age are usually the best of friends and playmates — most of the time. Eventually, however, they will revert to primitive instinctual behavior when vying for a coveted toy, favorite television program, snack or their parents’ attention. In our home overrun by five kids — the eldest is 9 and youngest is 2 — competition is stiff and each child must cultivate and hone a specific talent that draws attention to themselves and away from their siblings.
Darwin’s renowned Survival of the Fittest theory states that in the natural and oftentimes hostile world, where many predators are competing for a limited supply of prey, only the genes of the strongest and fittest of each species will survive and continue mutating and adapting to its respective environmental conditions.
My house is a live laboratory where this time-honored theory is in constant trial. It’s like an all day marathon episode of Survivor and sometimes more resembles an Animal Planet program. New attitudes, approaches and behaviors are experimented with and fail, others are more successful and implemented by all.
On certain days when the moon is full, some resort to savage-like behavior to get my attention. Others are more diplomatic in general, bestowing compliments and utilizing politeness to get what they want from me.
Each one of my children has their own personal style and preferred tactics that have proven successful in getting them what they want before anyone else does.
My youngest boy and fourth in line will gently “tip toe” over to me and say,
“Mommy, you’re a Princess Jaguar.” Huge smile. “Could I have chocolate milk with no chocolate in the blue cup, only in the blue cup?”
(I reiterate his wish back to him to see if now, by the 46th time, he will recognize the innate senselessness of his favorite beverage description.)
“Just lemme make sure I understand you — you want a cup of milk, I mean chocolate milk, but white and without the chocolate in the blue cup?”
“Ahhh, Yep.” (Nodding in agreement after thoughtful analysis.)
The youngest and most devilish pistol will grab a part of my body, usually a limb, and pull me — oftentimes dragging me across the floor, compelling me to tend to her needs in blatant disregard for anyone or anything else.
If she weren’t so darned charming and delectable, I would sell her. Her strategy is to wear me down physically to get me to comply by making me do laps around the house chasing her. Eventually I need to tackle her to the ground in order to accomplish diapering her chubby rear.
My eldest daughter, a true Taurus, will charm me to a certain point — her breaking point, usually, and then tire easily. If her desired results are not achieved within 4 attempts, she becomes frustrated, self-pitying and belligerent all within about 180 seconds. This usually terminates in bedroom isolation.
She is feisty, proud and annoyingly persistent like her mom. She is so real and has such a big heart. She battles endlessly with her “evil inclination;” she is a walking, breathing manifestation of Freud’s description of the perpetual struggle between the id, ego, and superego.
My second eldest, a girl, is seemingly naïve, yet a stunning master in softening up her folks. She weighs all of 39 pounds soaking wet, has adorable bony feet and is 7 years old. She eats next to nothing, is very petite, has a big confident and sensitive personality and a sweet, sweet smile. She melts my heart.
This unassuming little “Slickster” was professing her love to me one day while nonchalantly handing me a piece of paper. I slipped it into a book I was holding and thought nothing of it. After 10 patient minutes of shooting the breeze with her Mama, she bellows out,
“Mommy, ya know that paper I gave you a few minutes ago?”
“Yeah, what about it?” I asked mindlessly.
“That is a list with everything I want for my birthday for the next several years.” Smooth and impressive — nothing less than brilliant. Where did she learn such skills?
My eldest boy, number three in the food chain, is drop dead gorgeous and at the tender age of 6 has already been in and out of more relationships than Hugh Heffner. He plays soccer like Beckham, confidently plays Barbies with his sisters and has more unbridled fury than an active volcano.
He is still “polishing” his skill set as we seek to help him constantly channel and drain his overabundance of energy into something productive so he doesn’t carelessly get himself into trouble.
A few weeks ago he asked my husband and I if “bikinis really exist?”
Then he corrected himself to say “genies.” Thank heavens for the misunderstanding — no more testosterone for this boy, please!
All in all, in our home everyone gets a chance to shine. It is not always an even score, but it works most of the time.
Some days the kids interact, negotiate and collaborate so nicely I want to burst open and cry with pride. Other times, most of it really, I am a referee literally tearing them off one another like a feuding pack of wolves — and it takes every last molecule of strength I have to accomplish this feat continuously throughout each day.
My philosophy is to stay out of it unless one is bleeding or incurs a fractured limb. (Just kidding — I’d give attention to a sprained ankle also.)
Seriously, oftentimes I choose not to intervene, thereby allowing them to perfect their conciliation techniques and bargaining skills by way of trial and error. These are talents they must acquire mostly by doing, with little accompanying theoretical explanation.
Yes, the competition is fierce and relentless. However, I am certain each one will have achieved the equivalent of a doctorate in whichever methodologies they master that enable them to win people over — using charm and charisma.
Despite all the sloppiness and apparent disorder, it contents me to no end that by the end of each day, they go to sleep with a deeply satisfied smile plastered across their little flawless faces. Deep down they know that they have each other with whom to share life and learn all about the delicate balance of “nature.”