I love my kids. I just don't love them together.
About The Author
Co-Founder and CEO of ParentNation. A working mom of two girls, a dog and a guinea pig. Obstacle course racing aficionado, martial artist and lover of challenges. A marketer by trade, I have spent my career building brands and championing initiatives for customers across national brands.
The year was 2007. My oldest was three and change, my youngest just two months. It was March and still cold and blustery outside. The baby was in the vibrating bouncy seat in the TV room adjacent to the living room minding her own business, her older sister watching Barney or some other mind-numbing program on TV.
In the two months my youngest was on this earth, I was always careful not to leave her alone with her older sister. Call it a momentary lapse of judgment/lack of sleep, but one day I stepped into the kitchen for not more than 10 seconds to put some dishes in the sink when I heard a scream SO LOUD that I literally jumped a good 30 feet from the kitchen back into the TV room, only to find the bouncy seat turned face down with no baby in it.
My older daughter had flung her little sister clear across the room, and I found her face down shrieking into the carpet. That was the end of any attempt I may have made to shower during the day…for the next eight years.
Fast forward ten years, and I still marvel at how one moment, my girls are beating the shit out of each other, and the next, asking, “Can we have sleepover?” I’m an only child. This craziness did not exist in my home when I was growing up. Ever.
I remember when I had my second child and people would ask me how many kids I had. “Two” I would say. “Boys? Girls?” they would ask. “Two girls”, I would answer. “But I might as well have had boys, because they fight like boys.” Have you ever had to rearrange the sheets in a hotel room so that the blood splatter from your kids attacking each other wasn't readily apparent when the cleaning crew walked in? Or had to explain to your neighbors why it looked like Freddy Krueger attacked your four year old’s face? Or had to have their sensei sit them down and remind them that the martial arts they were learning was for self defense and not to be used on their sister? I know, I know. They’ll be best friends when they grow up. So...at what age are they considered "grown up"???
I can’t even say it’s one more than the other, as is usually the case. They both seem to be equally agile at pushing each other’s buttons at just the right moment in time for maximum effect.
Four weeks ago, on the drive up to sleep away camp to drop my oldest off for four weeks, I gave up my front seat in order to split the two up for the car ride. “I’ll take the back”, I said, as I squeezed in to the back seat with my younger daughter and dog, who decided she needed to be on top of me for the whole trip. I thought this was brilliant. One in the front, one in the back, this way they won’t fight!
Wrong. If you can picture in your head a foot in the back poking an elbow in the front and vice-versa, you can imagine how the three-hour car ride went. And so, parting wasn’t such sweet sorrow after unpacking duffels and making beds. It was more a necessity.
The next four weeks were as close to a vacation while still having one child home, going nowhere and still working. I was relaxed, calm, serene even. It was quiet. It was stress-free. My younger daughter was pleasant, obedient and charming. One night while just the three of us we were eating dinner, I was watching her tell a funny story about camp when it hit me. I love my kids. I just don't love them together.
A few years ago, I took my older daughter to an amusement park in Connecticut for two days. Just the two of us, a little mother/daughter getaway. She was seven at the time. It was a short trip, but we both loved every minute of it. She had my full attention, and we had a blast. This past winter, she and my husband went skiing while my younger daughter and I opted out. We went to a painting class, shopping and out to dinner, and I cherished it all.
For some reason that this only child will never understand, the dynamics shift and swirl into an angry tempest-like storm when my kids are together, causing me a constant level of stress I never realized until these last four weeks, the longest period of time they have been apart.
And so now, as we drive up to camp to pick up my older daughter, I brace myself for what inevitably will become the face-slapping, she’s-chewing-too-loudly commenting, wrestle to the ground sort of environment I’ve grown accustomed to the last 10 years.
Yet strangely enough, while I look forward to spending alone time with each of my kids in the future, for now, I’m just counting the minutes until we get to camp and are together once again.