When I’m waiting in the car for my kids after school and I see them walking towards me, one at least 10 strides ahead of the other, I know there’s going to be trouble ahead.
Like many families, my kids can be best friends one moment, then bickering and arguing the next, oftentimes over the smallest things. I try to listen to each of my daughters equally and mediate fairly, but a lot of the time it’s just not possible. I’m human. I can’t help but side with one or the other, depending on the situation.
If I know one kid is having a hard time at school, has had some disappointments or not enough sleep, then I will empathize with her. My oldest girl is sensitive by nature and has a variety of activities, school work, a job, and a boyfriend. She starts out each week with a heavy schedule, and by Thursday night, she isn’t always at her best either at home or at school. The smallest thing can set her off and that usually means tears will follow. So when a dispute happens over who forgot to feed the dog, or who is responsible for wet laundry left in the washing machine from the night before, I just tend to side with her, because I know she is trying her best to keep up with commitments.
Of course, as a parent, you know that you should try to remain neutral. Creating a lifetime of issues for your kid by favouring one over the other is not usually the goal. However, seeing their disputes through my 40-something-year-old eyes, I often feel like I can quickly cut to a solution, and that usually means picking a side.
My younger daughter is a dreamer, often lost in thought, in a book or deep into a game of Candy Crush. She will leave the house without a jacket, her socks, her textbooks, lunch and more. Her tendency to be forgetful means that she often starts something and forgets to finish it. Like laundry, or unloading the dishwasher. Our kids each have a ‘day’ to do various household chores (even and odd days based on their birthdates) and if one forgets, the other has to pick it up the next day. As much as this causes disputes between them, I can’t help but have empathy for my forgetful daughter, because I am a dreamer and often lost in thought too.
Navigating disputes is tricky because we are often filtering through our own lens, at the same time that we might be battling our own stressors, expectations and often full schedules. Taking the time to properly evaluate a situation and help mediate accordingly just isn’t always realistic in the land of parenting. On many occasions, I’ve sided with one child, almost without thinking, and then later had even more cleanup to do, when the other child tells me they were hurt or felt they were treated unfairly.
I can only hope that as they move into adulthood and more disputes come up, I’m consistent in siding with each of them equally as often.