You become a more effective parent when you finally realize the true role your children play in your life. For example, I handle the daily irritations my children present to me better now that I understand their job is to gradually tighten the nerves around my skull until my head implodes. It helps to have a consistent relationship with well-defined roles.
Unfortunately, children are rarely consistent. This is the confounding aspect of parenthood. Just when you become skilled at keeping your brain nerves loose, the kids get all cute and make you lower your guard again.
One morning, last week, Mommy and Big Brother had gone to school, leaving me with Buster and Big Man. They were both still asleep and I was doing something in the kitchen. Before long, I heard the sound of little feet tramping about overhead. I wondered which one it would be, bursting into the kitchen and demanding candy for breakfast.
As I prepared to insist upon a nutritious breakfast, like Cap’n Crunch, I heard careful steps descending the stairs. In the next instant, I would be confronted by a boisterous intruder, demanding all the things he couldn’t have, and refusing all the things he should have.
I steeled myself.
No one came.
Instead, I heard soft voices from the living room.
This was curious. Soft voices are uncommon in our house. They cause me to become suspicious.
I tip-toed to the doorway and peeked around the corner. They sat together in the recliner, wedged between their stuffed bears, consulting about which buttons on the remote would best be used to turn on the TV and cable box.
My two little rugged individualists were actually holding a discussion. They were working together to solve a problem. Just knowing they’d made it downstairs together without fighting blew my mind, but now they were cooperating on a task.
They were acting like – dare I say it? – brothers. I mean, brothers like in the root of brotherhood, not in the usual sense of two people confined to the same house who must compete for treats and avoid punishments by pinning trouble on the other.
I ran for my camera to document this anomaly. Otherwise, who would believe me?
Like every Big Foot witness before me, I only got a couple of poor-quality pictures before they spotted me. Since I’d been discovered, I helped them turn on the TV.
And that was the end of it.
Within minutes, they were acting like brothers again. I mean, brothers in the sense of people who can’t agree on a cartoon and start a tug of war over the remote, not brothers in the mythical sense of people whose familial bonds inspire kindness and consideration.
Once my presence was detected, it was business as usual. That business, of course, being to constrict the nerves in my skull until my head implodes.
At least we had gotten past an awkward inconsistency in our family dynamic.