On the cuteness meter, few things register as high as two adorable little four-year-old cousins playing dolls together. It really warms the heart.
“Her’s being nasty!”
“Nuh uh! She has my favorite baby doll and she’s not sharing!”
“I’m not playing with you anymore!”
“Well, I’m not playing with you ever again! So there!”
Isn’t that sweet?
Every once in a while, when my wife and sister-in-law head out to the gym or maybe the store, I have the privilege of watching my kids and my niece for a few hours. It sounds simple enough. All I have to do is let the little munchkins run around and play while I pour myself a cup of coffee and grab a good book, checking up on the them periodically, of course, just to make sure they’re not cutting each other’s hair or feeding their LEGOs to the garbage disposal.
Of course, it’s never that simple.
As I curl up on the sofa with my book, the girls start playing this make-believe game they call “Happy Family,” where one is the “mom”, another is the “kid”, and my son, fittingly, plays the part of the “dog.”
However, just minutes into their game, their happy little family transforms into a dysfunctional one, as my daughter and my niece begin to antagonize each other.
First comes the tattling. “She’s not sharing!” or “Her’s not being nice!” or “She just said a bad word!” By this time my son has lost interest in the game and crawls off to go find something to destroy.
At this point I start to feel the blood begin to bubble inside my veins. I remain calm, however, and refuse to let them get to me. “I don’t want to hear about it,” I say, washing my hands of the situation. “Go figure it out yourselves.” My wife first shared with me this brilliant style of parenting, which not only teaches your children how to resolve their own issues but which also sends them back to whence they came with a puzzled look on their face.
It’s really quite satisfying.
But of course, this is only a temporary solution. Minutes later another one comes running in to tell you that the other just called her a “poopie head.”
Soon my patience runs out and I begin to make bold declarations: “That’s it!” I declare. “Unless someone is bleeding to death or about to be, I don’t want to hear about it! Do you understand me? NOW GO HAVE FUN!”
By this time I’ve given up on my book and begin to stare out the window, longingly, like a puppy yearning to be out chasing squirrels.
Once they realize they can’t tattle anymore, the girls resort to something more sinister: spite. My daughter and my niece are both masters of malice, and each knows exactly how to push the other’s buttons.
For example, this one time they were fighting over the same coloring book page, so I jumped in to resolve the dispute. “This is your side,” I said to one, drawing a line down the center of the page, “and this side is yours.” Problem solved. Or so I thought. Immediately they both started coloring as close to the center as possible, their elbows crossing the line of demarcation and colliding with the other’s Crayola.
“Her is getting in my way!”
“Know I’m not! She isn’t staying on her side!”
It’s usually around this time that I go and pour myself a stiff drink. A double. Meanwhile my son is off somewhere mutilating a book or guzzling sour milk from some long-forgotten sippy cup.
But as long as he’s not bothering me, I really don’t care.