Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

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Bean and Gracie are 22 months apart in age, which has brought us both blessings and challenges.  One of the pleasant surprises has been how great the kids get along.  We were really prepared to have jealousy issues and sharing problems, but we haven’t really dealt with those.  At almost two and three years old, we thought we had made it through the roughest part of having kids so close in age.

We were wrong.

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Gracie, as we all know, has a very strong personality.  For a long time, though, she had been content to shadow Bean very obediently.  Wherever he went, she went.  Whatever he did, she did.  He could boss her around, and she was happy as a pig to just be part of the action.  But in the past week, we’ve started to see a shift in that.  As Gracie is getting older, she is forming her own interests and preferences.  She has opinions (lots and lots and LOTS of opinions) and she likes to think for herself.  Gone are the days of letting ANYONE tell her what to do.  It has been frustrating to Chris and me, but lately I’ve started paying attention to Bean is reacting to it.

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In a nutshell, Bean is REALLY annoyed with Gracie right now.  And yet, he still wants to hang out with her.  So, we hear a lot of these conversations coming from one of their bedrooms where they are playing:

“No, Gracie, you’re supposed to put that toy HERE!”

“NO!”

“NO, GRACIE!  Put it down!  You have to give it back to me!”

“NO!”

And then Gracie runs off squealing, and Bean starts crying and calling out to me, “MOM!  Gracie won’t play right!”

And so I say that if they can’t get along, then they can’t play together.  And then both Bean and Gracie shriek, “NO!!!!!!!”

Seriously.  That cycle happens about 15,000 times a day, give or take.  They remind me of an old married couple who can’t stand each other, but can’t live without each other, either.  (One day, Future Bean and Future Gracie are going to find this post and be totally grossed out that I compared them to a married couple.  But, I speak only truth, Future Kids…)

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Honestly, we try to leave them alone when they get into those cycles.  Chris and I both think they need go learn to work through that stuff on their own, without a referee, and so we leave them to it most of the time.  But if we let them work it out for too long without some assistance, then they begin playing the Tattling Game.  Which is when I want to grab a fork and stab myself in the eyeball.

“Mom, Gracie said poop.”

“Bean!  Bean!  Bean!” (that’s all Gracie can say when she’s mad, but we know that he’s done something…)

“Mom, Gracie kicked me.”

“Bean!  Bean!  Bean!”

“Mom, Gracie took my toy.”

“Bean!  Bean!  Bean!”

“Mom, Gracie isn’t playing right.”

“Bean!  Bean!  Bean!”

“Mom, Gracie looked at me funny.”

“Bean!  Bean!  Bean!”

“Mom, Gracie is breathing.”

“Bean!  Bean!  Bean!”

Then I take a different fork and poke Chris in the eyeball just so I have some company.

We’ve curbed the tattling a LITTLE bit for Bean by implementing the Three Tattles Rule.  He gets to tattle three times.  After that, they can’t play together anymore, and I take whatever it is they are playing with, no matter whose fault it is.  Harsh?  Maybe.  But by this point I usually only have one good eyeball left and I can’t take any chances.

I suspect that this nitpicking at each other will probably last for a while.  Like, into their early 20’s, which is when my sister and I finally stopped nitpicking at each other.  But I also suspect that, like my sister and I, they will eventually learn to work through that nitpicking on their own.  They’ll learn what’s important enough to get me involved in and what they can work out themselves.  And they’ll learn the problem solving skills to help them figure out those situations by themselves.  I also know from my own experience that there is a big chance that the time of them WANTING to hang out together will ebb and flow.  I know my sister and I went through phases where we wanted the other around and then phases when we didn’t, and I’m pretty sure my kids will go through that, too.  So, right now I’m trying to remember to be thankful that they are arguing like this because they WANT to hang out with each other.  I think I would be heartbroken if they didn’t want anything to do with each other.  And I’d much rather be frustrated over their nitpicking than heartbroken over their disengagement.

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There are weeks when Chris and I look at each other and say, “We probably could have planned this age difference a little better… or, like, at ALL.”  But really, most of the time – even on the frustrating days – we are so glad we had kids close in age.  We can see them planting the roots of good, solid friendship between them.  And we know that when your roots are deep, the little gray thunderstorms just help you grow even more.

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15 Thoughts to “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines”

  1. This is so, so true. My sister and I are 25 months apart. My parents probably hated it when we were growing up because we fought all the time and nitpicked everything the other did. But, once my sister went to college, we didn’t see each other much and got along a lot better. We still fight, but I consider her one of my best friends. So even though Bean and Gracie fight now, they’ll probably get along great when they’re older. Just hang in there 🙂

  2. Kathleen

    I’m not sure it’s an age difference thing. My brother and I are 40 months apart and this was us exactly. EXACTLY! What’s best (or worse) is we learned that by teaming together, instead of against each other, we could get more of what we wanted. And we also learned that we loved each other a whole lot. All’s well that ends well, no?

  3. Beth

    My kids are 22 months apart and I could have written this blog post exactly. They are 11 and 9 now… and are still the same! Annoy the crap out of each other but still want to play together

  4. This is both encouraging and frightening 🙂 My littlest is only seven weeks, so not too much of this yet, but I love having your take on it!

  5. My brother and I are only 15 months apart — a fact which I think about now and am AMAZED my parents survived! I’m sure, like Amanda, my mom could have written the exact same thing. Keep it up — sounds like you and Chris are raising them right!

  6. Ha! My kids are 3,5 (Bean’s age, June baby!) and 13 months. 2.5 years. I really love this spacing, but even when his sister is in a different room he panics about her touching his toys. And even though Eliana’s not verbal at all she’s perfected her, “I’m annoyed!” screech. I think part of it is a sibling thing (no matter their age difference) and part of it is a three year old thing. My brother and I are 21 months apart and we fought til we were in college. Though, sometimes we still whip out the “friendly” banter. I have a sister who’s seven years younger than me, and while we didn’t do as much fighting, it’s taken a lot longer for us to be on even levels so that we could be friends. There are pros and cons to it all. Parenting. Some days you just have to dump them in bed at 6:30pm and have a stiff drink. 😉

  7. Kat

    I am SOOO curious how P and her new siblings will get along. As for this post, it had me laughing SOOOO hard (sorry, at your eye balls’ expense) that I even had to take a break and then read it to the hubs because I couldn’t stop laughing and he was looking at me like I have 5 heads.

  8. Dessi

    I think having sibilings close in age in awesome! My brother and I are 17 months apart and mine will be 18 months apart once #2 arrives 🙂 I lovee the tattle rule and might have to keep that for future reference!

  9. Mae

    My kids are 20 months apart and like you my second wasn’t completely planned (like at all). They like to play with each other, but Avery def cannot be bossed around either, which Parker is not liking her independence. He’s also tattling like crazy and she wails and cries if he even looks at her the wrong way. It drives me nuts! I will have to think about implementing the “Three Tattles Rule” and somehow teach Avery to just “shake it off”.

  10. jenny-bird

    My sister and I are 18 months apart. We played well together when we were young, and when she developed her own independence and refused to match outfits with me I was devastated. The tables turned when I made my own circle of friends in middle school and didn’t want her hanging out with MY friends. Now that we’re in our mid-twenties all is well. Good luck! P.S. The Three Tattles Rules sounds like a great idea!

  11. I have 18 month old twin boys and a 4 month old baby boy, so my twins and the baby are only 14 months apart! I would say we should’ve planned better, but it was a surprise to us! Since my big boys are only 18 months old we haven’t hit the tattling phase, but with three so close together I know we will! Usually one of the twins takes whatever the other twin has away from him and then takes off running while the second twin chases behind crying. I usually try to let them work it out, but sometimes you just have to intervene!

  12. Oy. We have the same problem here with my 2.5 y.o. and 4.5 y.o. I explain to my older one that her younger sister doesn’t always understand how to play and that she needs to be more patient with her. They are 21 months apart, and it’s great because they can totally play with each other now, even if they do fight a lot! I’m having a 3rd in August and I’m curious to see how the bigger age difference will play out, especially since my older one will be in Kindergarten, and my younger one still has two more years at home.

  13. Sarah P

    This is very true. My older sister and I are 22m apart and it took us until she left home at 15 to go to a gifted boarding high school to be friends. But we still loved each other all the while. I’m due in June with our 2nd, who will be 23m younger than her older brother. When I read your blog, its like I’m reading into my very own future!

  14. They sound like my oldest two! They are only 17 months apart and fight a lot. When they do, I separate them after three warnings. Of course, it’s easier to do that because they are a lot older than your two! I wish you lots of luck, my dear!

  15. Nicole C.

    Jake will be 8 this summer and Kendall turns 5 in April. They fight. ALL. THE. TIME. Over stupid stuff at that. But, exactly like yours, they never want to be split up! My husband and I have had big problems trying to figure all this sibling stuff out as we are both only children. To us they should be excited to have a sibling and not be an only. Obviously we know that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Oh and tattling, TATTLING! I’ve gotten to the point to where I say, the only reason to tattle is if someone is hurting themselves or someone else, or if someone is bleeding. Otherwise don’t just try to get your brother/sister into trouble. I also tell them sometimes if they tattle and there wasn’t a valid reason for it, the person tattling will be in just as much trouble. For the record…I have to constantly reminding them of all these “rules” and sometimes I think tattling is just worth it to them!

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