Yesterday I had to break up a physical fight between my children over a delicate issue: if we had a folding bicycle (like the one in the outdoor shop catalogue they were perusing), who would get to ride it and who would get to fold it? Blood was almost spilled over a hypothetical folding bike with the street cred of a Zimmer frame. Sibling squabbling is surely inevitable but I felt this was taking things too far.
We deliberately had them close together – only a thirteen-month gap. They’ll be close, we said. And they are close. Often way too close. “Stop hitting, stop kicking – give each other some space!” we cry. They’ll have the same interests at the same time, we said. And they do have the same interests at the same time – at exactly the same time: the only thing that one child wants to play with is usually exactly that thing that the other is currently playing with. We have two of some things. Ideally, we’d have two of every single object in the house. But then what when one child is playing with two identical objects? Suddenly it seems sensible to buy four of everything…
But all the children really want is us. Every single bit of us. Every single bit of everything we can offer. And while we may have enough love for two, it’s not how they see it: every bit of love and attention given to the other is a bit they could have had if…if what? If they cried a little louder? If they could make us love them a little more? If they could just make us see that while they love their sibling, we shouldn’t love their sibling, or if so, not as much as we love them.
And it’s logical because love is more than just a nice cosy feeling to young children. It’s survival. They know they are fully dependent on us to feed them and warm them and protect them from danger. And they seem to know that we do this because we love them.
So while it looks like silly squabbling to me, perhaps who I side with over the hypothetical folding bike, really does feel like life and death to my children.