They’re Going to Kill Each Other (or Me)

Remember these days?


They’re gone.

On Monday, I decided we should spend our evening hours before bedtime at the library. It was hot outside — too hot to play outside — and we were tired of being cooped up in the house. I figured we’d get out, shake off some of the boring house germs and enjoy our favorite place. Lots of birds, one stone. On the very short trip to the library, they argued back and forth about who knows what… yes, no, yes, no, YES, NO.

We pulled into the parking lot, found a spot and as I parked our vehicle, I asked BigBrother to unbuckle LittleBrother. This is the normal sequence of events upon going anywhere as LittleBrother is still in a convertible car seat and unable to undo his own five point harness. LittleBrother is usually quite cooperative with this chain of events. However, the argument that they had just endured apparently set him off and he was having none of it.

Before I could get out of the front seat and to the back door, LittleBrother had grabbed both of BigBrother’s ears and yanked. Hard. Somehow fingernails were involved. I saw some shade of red, told BigBrother to get back in his own seat, very calmly re-buckled a screaming, wiggling LittleBrother, walked around to re-buckle BigBrother and off we went to our home. I calmly explained, for the umpteenth time, that we do not purposefully hurt one another. I had to bite my lip not to totally flip my lid.

I’d say something about my words falling on deaf ears, but poor BigBrother’s ears were bright red and it’s quite possible he couldn’t hear me over his brother’s squealing.

I don’t know what to do.


This is where some people tell me that brothers roughhouse and that boys are physical creatures. And that sibling rivalry is normal. And that they do love each other, but it’s hard to have a sibling that close in age. And a bunch of excuses. But I can’t handle all the fighting. I don’t care that ten minutes later they’re giggling over who said poop. I don’t care that they give hugs and kisses and generally love all over each other. I can’t handle the fighting. The constant bickering over nothing — who can sit in the driver’s seat of the fire truck at the fire department — and everything — who gets the Cars spoon at breakfast — is barely tolerable and, thankfully, they mostly work it out on their own.

But this?

I worry. I worry about broken arms. I worry that this is genetically my fault. I worry that maybe it’s not genetics and that it’s just my lousy parenting. I worry that it will never end. I worry that I screwed both of the boys out of ever being emotionally mature because I cheated them out of a sister. In short, I worry.

We had the boys close in age due in part to my health, but also because we wanted them to have that “friend” we didn’t have in our siblings growing up. FireDad’s sister is eight years older; I am eight years older than my brother. I only now think my brother is mostly cool if not still slightly annoying. We wanted our children to have that bond. Not to beat each other senseless. I am aware that sibling rivalry does and will continue to exist. But I’m already tired of it. And they’re so young.

I suppose all I can do is continue trying to keep my cool when tempers flare, model good behavior (which might mean not calling my brother a buttface while the kids are in earshot) and, I don’t know, pray that something changes. Soon.

And that we see more of this.

Hollow Rock 2010


[At least they’re happy in the morning. What’s your morning routine? Tell me and win $100.]


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19 Replies to “They’re Going to Kill Each Other (or Me)”

  1. Yeah, I always ask myself the question, “Where did they LEARN to fight?” It’s one of those mysteries that we may NEVER solve, unfortunately. My kids fight too, BTW:) But that probably doesn’t make you feel any better.

  2. My brother and I are 19 months apart. We were inseparable growing up…but we could FIGHT. We were best friends but I kicked him where it counts once on purpose. We cheered each other on, confided in one another, shared a car and cried when I went off to college. That’s probably when the sibling rivalry ended.

    But did I say we were (AND STILL ARE) the very best friends? Because really, we are.

  3. (excuse iPhone typos and brevity)
    my guy is almost the same age as LB and the physicality is whoa! at times. Also consider that LB is amazingly verbal (really WOW) for the age and you have the recipe for the high needs sibling dynamic. New book I loved: raising happiness and also the ch. on siblings in Nurture Shock

    1. I just ran to Amazon and ordered Raising Happiness. When all else fails, read a book. And thank you. I know he’s very verbal. He blows my mind at times. I’m not precisely sure how that actually affects a) how we view him age/readiness wise, b) how that affects his relationship with BB AND other kids, c) how it will affect his future learning. Sometimes it’s great! Sometimes it’s not. I think I have more to say on this subject, but I don’t quite know what it is yet. But, all the same (and as always), thank you.

  4. Hey Jenna,

    You did the right thing at the library.

    My very first post ever (this morning) was on this topic. It may encourage you. My kids are older so I can say with confidence that it gets better. It kinda comes in waves but they do end up loving one another. Really. My sister and I were close in age and fought like cats and dogs. We got over it.

    As far as your sanity goes, something to look forward to goes a long way. I’ve finally started quarterly weekends away. Sometimes with hubby. Sometimes with a girlfriend. Sometimes blissfully by myself. You can do it mama!

  5. Not what you want to hear but my sister & I still have a sick and twisted (that’s what my hubby calls it) sibling rivalry going on. We are 18 months apart. We weren’t as physical in our spats, partly due to being girls and partly due to parental intolerance. Just keep doing what you are doing to stop the fighting. As for the constant bickering, I know it drove my mom nuts too. Sadly at 42 and 41 we still bicker.

    Some of our issues have to do with constant comparisons by others. We look enough alike that a lot of people thought we were twins. My sis was constantly called by name in school. She was 1 yr behind me and we had a lot of the same activities like band. She was constantly compared to me in school & she is not scholastically inclined. Mom actually wished to her dying day that she had kept my sister back a year due to her late birthday & to give us a little bit more space.

    As we got older and started to develop our own interests, got some space, grew on our own, our relationship improved somewhat. To quote my mom, “You have to love family but you don’t have to like them”. BB and LB will be friends but they may never be bestest friends. And that is OK. They will always be brothers. They will always love each other and defend each other. It just may not seem like it.

    You ARE a good parent. You ARE doing the right thing. Parenting is 100% a learning process until the day you die. I’m pretty convinced I’m a horrible mother 99% of the time. My goal is to screw up my kid less than me.


  6. We have two girls, 21 months apart. The youngest is only 5 months old and yet she purposely tries to pull her big sister’s hair anytime she is in arm’s reach. I’m dreaded the fights that are sure to happen very soon. Apparently girls can fight too, who knew.

  7. There’s always been a physical element to the rivalry with my brother (20 months younger). At 29, I will still smack him on the back or punch his shoulder (though now its good-natured). During our younger years, we shared a bedroom, and we fought as often as we were cooperative, but once we got out of each others’ hair – i.e. college – we grew exponentially closer, and he’s not only a brother but a best friend as well.

    You’ll handle it – boys are a whirling dervish of activity and noise and fists; the damage will be superficial, their relationship will be true.

  8. I hate the constant bickering and fighting as well. It wears me down. It makes me question my parenting, my sanity and if my choices were good ones. Hubby laughs it off and says this is how having four kids is. He had four brothers and they fought to the death on a regular basis. I want peace in my house. I don’t think I will ever get it!

    Your a great mother. I think turning around and going home was a good thing though, that normally teaches a good lesson. Next time they won’t hurt eachother until they are inside the library! LOL!

  9. I’d already thought of this, but this post just made it more prominent in my mind. I’ve got baby boy #2 on the way. Baby boy #1 will be 3 years older than his little brother. The same as I was 3 years older than my little brother. And oh, the fights. The throwing of stuff. The breaking of vases over heads. The death threats. I know I’m in for a battle zone…but really I do take comfort in the fact that my brother and I were always pals. We always had each other’s back and still do. We could fight terrible horrible fights but still love each other. We grew up and came out of the other end like war buddies.

    This kind of fighting will cool off….one day. It always does. They grow up mature and part of that process is that there is a bit more restraint and better handling of emotions. One day, this will all be just a memory that you guys all discuss and laugh about.

  10. Yeah, that whole thing about having kids close together to combat sibling rivalry? Total myth. It doesn’t matter if kids are born 10 minutes apart or 10 years, there will be battles. Epic battles.

    You done good by going back home. Real good. You have good instincts, so just keep on following them. Really. :-)

  11. I second Burgh Baby’s comment about you having good instincts. You really do. And all the other comments about the epic fights that will at some point ensue in your boys lives. Just know they will happen, and hopefully they will be few and far between.

    The fact that our kids fight doesn’t make us bad parents. Let’s just all repeat that a few times.

    There’s a cool new toy out there that helps kids and siblings with their fighting issues. It’s simple but straight forward and kids seem to really like the idea. It’s called the pocket referee. The package says for ages 5 and up, but you know your kids and know if they will understand how to use it younger than that.

    Seriously give it a look.

  12. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, mainly because your kids are adorable and you take such beautiful pictures.

    I’m two months shy of my twenty first birthday. My brother just turned twenty three. He beat the ever loving snot out of me. We were never close growing up. Period. My mother had hoped that giving us that closer age, we’d be best friends.

    It wasn’t until I was thirteen and switched school districts that we started to be more okay with one another. We needed separate spaces to go along with our separate personalities and separate lives.

    This has been a long, babbling comment to say; we hated each other and we didn’t kill each other (or my mother. A few gray hairs, yes. Death, not so much). Your boys adore each other, and I’m mostly sure they’ll grow out of the bickering phase.

    You’re a good mommy.

  13. Sort of off topic, but sort of related… hubby and I had a conversation last night that started off being about football and how much more complex it is than I ever realized (the billions of combinations of plays and such) and we got onto why it’s good for boys to play. He was explaining that he feels that boys and men have natural inclinations toward aggression and that the reason that he personally LOVED playing football so much was that it gave him the opportunity to release the aggression in a constructive way.

    I had never given much thought to the idea of boys needing to have a way to release aggression in a healthy way, but since I have b/g twins, I’m now always thinking about what I can do to be a good mama. This is a Looong way to go about saying it, but I guess I’m saying that boys need to be able to get that out of their system. So yeah, the brothers will roughhouse and fight and that is totally normal and not a reflection on you or your genetics or your daughter. As parents, I guess we can try to find ways for them to let it out in a positive way… like football, or karate, or wrestling with Dad, or whatever works for the individual kid. I’m already trying to get Caden not to kill his sister every day. He’s SO much rougher than she is, it’s crazy. They are only 1. I can’t even imagine when they are 4 or 6 or 10. Yikes! ;)

  14. One of the reasons I so love reading your blog is that it brings back, with crystal clarity, so many memories of my own parenting of two ever-so-very-active young boys. Ours were 3.5 years apart, and are now fully grown, but to this day when they are in the same house together there is (good-natured) physical combat. Apart from how *large* they are now, it’s as though they were sill the same ages as your two.These days I think the motivation is mostly “See, I’m still bigger than you are”/”Oh Yeah? But I’m still faster and smarter!”

    A technique that *really* helped cut down on the daily bickering was when we instituted “Whose Day to Choose?” We set things up so one kid had odd days and the other one had evens. That meant that whoever’s day it was to choose got first dibs on where to sit, what TV programs to watch, first piece of dessert, etc. In months where there was a 31st, that day was “Mom’s choice” and I usually settled things by flipping a coin the first time there was a need, and then alternating choosers for the rest of the day. I think our two were about the age of yours when we first started doing that, and it lasted at least until the older one got his driver’s license! And yes, it was an act of desperation — born in a moment of complete exhaustion when I had HAD IT with the bickering. It was either that or lock myself in the bathroom for the next ten years and let them raise themselves. (Don’t try and tell me that thought has never crossed your mind!)

    I also found it helpful to simply “withdraw” — employ selective hearing loss unless there seemed to be imminent bloodshed. It’s amazing what differences they really *can* solve themselves (usually at the expense of the younger one it seems, but still…) in the absence of parental intervention.

    But then I always felt like a selfish & ineffective mother.

    But I was just so TIRED of the fighting…

    I know you know, “this too shall pass”…but in the moment? Aieeeee!

    Hang in there. And keep taking pictures of the good times. I guarantee, those are the memories both you and the boys will keep forever — wounds heal, injustices diminish. But love seems to stick around pretty much forever :-0

  15. Now I know why you asked … separating my three boys – 10, 9 and 7- is my only sanity. I can barely HANDLE the fighting too but really, what is the alternative? LOL

  16. I’m so glad I found your blog, I have 2 boys – 2.5 and 4.5, the fighting is going to drive me insane! But oh when they’re being sweet!

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