A friend of mine is pregnant with her second child and she asked me for advice on handling two. I drew a blank. After all, we’re still taking it day by day over here.
Then it hit me, start praying for their sibling relationship now.
Before Mary Virginia was born, I was mostly worried about how I could possibly take care of two children — whose needs are exhausting and entirely different — at the same time. Looking back, it was hard. The first year especially is consumed with juggling schedules and figuring out how to simultaneously move at the pace of a sleepy, slow newborn, and a toddler who moves at the immense speed of a toddler.
It consumes the first year or so, but then they sync up. And after that year, until I guess they’re old enough to call the cops on each other, the challenge is harder: teaching them to exist in the same space, love each other, fostering a relationship.
Sibling relationships are so incredible, and David and Mary Virginia already have a weird, complex relationship. All day they fight, laugh, ignore, and admire each other. All the while I’m on the outskirts, trying to figure out when to intercede and when to back off.
The other day, David told Mary Virginia, “Mary. I want to cut off your eyes and your mouth and then I will get rid of you and Mommy will throw you in the trash.”
If anyone else said that to her, I’d scoop her up, call the police, and run far far away from that horrible person. But it was her brother, so instead I rolled my eyes, said something about using kind words, and a few hours later I put them to bed two feet from each other.
Until recently, their sibling squabbles were all one-sided. David would snatch toys or scream at Mary Virginia when she tried to play with him. But Mary Virginia is getting older and lately, when she finds his toys unattended, she knows to grab it and run. And when he catches her, she’s perfected a squeal that acts as judge and jury — this disagreement? It was David’s fault. Didn’t you hear me squeal?
She’s even figuring out how to torture her brother the way sisters do best — psychologically.
Yesterday the house was quiet and David was playing with his cars. Mary Virginia walked into the living room and stood in front of him. She stood there, silent, until he looked up.
Then, her gun loaded and aimed, she performed her magnum opus — two words that would screw with his sense of reality, his identity, his place in the world. If the gravity of this is lost on you, I want you to walk up to a toddler and try this and I promise, when you see their reaction, you will be so horrified, your next move will be Googling “toddler anger management classes” in your area.
Mary Virginia looked at her brother, grinned. And just before spinning and running away, she leaned down in his face and announced, “I’M DAVID!”