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Sunday, November 08, 2009


I'm listening to my children "negotiate" in the other room, forcing myself to remain seated and keep my input to myself. In general, they've always gotten along fairly well, but we go through these periods of time where it seems to take more work. They are adjusting to each other's growing selves and priorities. Little brother might not be as easily swayed as he once was. Little sister might be less likely to succumb to charms of older sister. Therefore, experimenting in methods of strong-arming, bribery, flattery, systems of conniving both logical and fantastic, and even the occasional brute force might take place. With three of them, there are bound to be occasional alliances and standoffs.

A long-standing parental question in our house has been, "Do you want me to get involved?"

I can hardly remember a moment when they did, though I have been known to pull one or the other aside and suggest "alternate" negotiating tactics anyway. Communication is king, as far as I'm concerned, and I like to think that my children are learning to listen and express themselves and come to points of agreement somewhere in the middle when the subject warrants.

Loud discussions tend to fill me with anxiety. Yelling or screeching will easily send me write over the edge. I have to stop and examine, at times, the origins of my discomfort. Living elbow to elbow with your fellow human -- be it family or friend, neighbor or person just passing by on the street -- you've got to be prepared for a bit of bumping and jostling at times. You've got to learn when to stand your ground, and when to concede it. You have to learn when it is worth it to take the time to lead a person to more amicable waters and when to put down your own pride and follow. You've got to be comfortable standing alone, even in a crowd.

And what better place to learn all this than with your own siblings? The people whose elbows you know best. Where it is safe to disagree and test the stuff you are made of and know that you will still be loved unconditionally (as it should be).

The conversation in the other room rose to a crescendo, was punctuated with a few staccato bursts, and finally ended (in surprisingly short time, I might add) with a lovely hum of harmony. Apparently, an agreement was reached. No parental input necessary.

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