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Thursday, June 26th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
We don’t know what we don’t know. It sounds like a nonsense expression, but it actually does mean something. Sometimes in life, despite our best efforts, we have to accept that there are things we simply do not know, and therefore, cannot make decisions based on information we don’t have. But this doesn’t only apply to us, of course. There are times when other people behave a certain way because they don’t have the knowledge or experience that you do. It’s incredibly frustrating, but also inevitable. And quite often, this clash will occur when two people have different upbringings. I can think of no other upbringing difference more significant than having siblings vs. being an only child.
My parents did a great job raising my sister and I. But one thing I always felt my father understood more thoroughly was the brother-sister dynamic. Mom was an only child, and there were times when battles between me and my sister baffled her. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized—she’s viewing her parenthood through the lens of an only child, not through the lens of a parent who’s been there, done that with every imaginable sibling scuffle.
With that in mind, here are some things that people with siblings can understand with deeper meaning than those without…
- You are not the center of the universe
There’s a natural tendency for only children to grow up with a sense of being infallible. They never had to share a bedroom, yield to their brother’s movie preference, etc. But once you have a sibling, you learn very quickly that the world does not revolve around you and your desires. It teaches a crucial lesson in that regard and prepares them for a life where, unless you’re Kim Kardashian, the world clearly will not revolve around you.
- Sharing is not only virtuous, it’s mandatory
My older son is five, and he’s had a brother for three years. Even as recent as last night, their ability to share was tested. Each of them had a toy that belonged to the other. There was some whining at first, but eventually, they both realized that if they expected to keep the other one’s toy, they had to share their own. It’s a give and a take. While not always pretty, my kids understand that sharing their toys with others is simply something that has to happen. That knowledge should serve them well as adults.
- Sometimes in life, people will try to drown you under an alligator raft
When I was about eight, my older sister, Nicole, pushed me underwater in our above-ground pool and held me under using an inflatable alligator raft. We were frequently at odds, especially when either of us had the ability to splash water in the other’s face. So, battles were the norm. Now, I don’t think she was actually trying to kill me (I mean, I’m pretty sure), but at the same time, I literally felt like I was fighting for my life. Metaphorically speaking, this has happened plenty of times as an adult. I tell myself that the raft helped me prepare.
- There’s something special about a shared history
Don’t you absolutely love sitting around a table with old friends, reminiscing about old times with monstrous grins on your faces? Well, a sibling is the oldest friend you have. And you’ve been through everything together. Baths, bedtimes, graduations, you name it. And there’s no one else on this earth that understands and appreciates your history as deeply as they do. Because, quite simply, it’s their history too.
- You don’t have to fight alone
Although disconcerting to see your children rip each other’s heads off on a daily basis, you can rest assured that they’ll be on the same side of the battlefield as adults. You may be as different as two people can be, but the ties that bind you override anything that separates you. I realize this isn’t the case 100% of the time, but more often than not, your siblings will be on your side during the most harrowing of life’s struggles.
* Honorable Mention: Eat what you want before someone else does
That’ll do it for me this week. In closing, I’d like to send the sincerest gratitude to Jill Cordes. Jill will be ending this blog at the end of the month. Last July, I was given the tremendous opportunity (by her) to guest blog for Parents, having my work visible to thousands of readers. And while the plan is for my future posts to appear under the “Parent’s Perspective” banner, I will greatly miss working alongside Jill and want to recognize the hospitality and support that she most certainly didn’t have to give me, but did. Jill’s one of the good ones and opened doors for me that were previously closed. Cheers, partner. Looking forward to reading your farewell piece.
Feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment below or tweeting me.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Friday, September 20th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
When I was around eight, I went with my mother and sister to a flea market. I was still young enough to be excited about buying other people’s garbage, but not quite old enough to understand the complicated dynamics of the sibling relationship. I only knew I wanted to walk away from this thing with at least as much as my sister did. After scouring the general area for about an hour and finding nothing of value, I spotted what I considered to be the real “get” of this otherwise lackluster sale — an orange skateboard. It was plain, it looked cheap and used, but it was a skateboard nonetheless. A few of my friends had them, and I wanted one pretty badly. So I made an iron-clad pitch to my mother, which consisted of jumping up and down and flailing my arms like E. Honda from Street Fighter. It didn’t work. I was told that I was simply too young to own a skateboard. But who wasn’t too young, you might ask? My sister of two years my senior. She was apparently the perfect age to begin her epic journey into the world of ollies and kickflips….or to dutifully toss the skateboard into her closet under her Strawberry Shortcake backpack, never to see the street once. I’ll let you guess which of the two happened.
Before I catch heat for pointing an accusatory finger at my sister or mother, I assure you that I’ve done the same thing with my own kids. Trying to maintain a balance between my sons is potentially the most challenging part of parenting. So whenever I’m tasked with being the reluctant referee between them, I do my best to consider both of their perspectives. After all, the thought patterns of the older child are markedly different from those of the younger. In general, here’s the difference:
Older sibling’s mentality: “I was here first. Everything used to be mine. Suddenly, I’m sharing? What’s that sh*t about? Oh, and I absolutely must have more than [younger sibling].”
Younger sibling’s mentality: “I’ve had to share since Day One. Can I get anything first? A bowl of ice cream, a stapler remover, anything?! Oh, and it would be kind of nice if I had at least half of what [older sibling] has.”
Right from the start, siblings are put into a position to hate each other’s guts. And I certainly see it with my kids. It never fails. My 4-year-old son, Antonio will be building a house with Legos when my 2-year-old son, Nate will nonchalantly stroll over and knock the house down, like a tiny Godzilla. Now, I can 100% understand Antonio’s furious anger in this case. He was minding his own business when someone else came along and ruined his good time. Anyone, child or adult, would at least be mildly annoyed by that. But then there are moments that aren’t so cut and dry…
In another instance, Antonio is eating a donut. Since Nate has a soy allergy and tons of foods are off the table (literally and figuratively), he can’t eat donuts. Antonio sees this as his opportunity to taunt Nate like he’s NFL defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and had just sacked Tom Brady. Nate sees this as his opportunity to squeeze Antonio’s ear like it’s a Hypercolor shirt. Chaos ensues.
Clearly, there’s fault on both sides. And it would be unfair of us to only punish Nate for landing the first blow just as it would be unfair to punish Antonio harder simply because he’s “older and should know better.” So we punish them both. That way, they loathe my wife and I more than they loathe each other. Ultimately, it’ll save us more aggravation later.
So with that in mind, here are some strategies I intend to implement with my sons to make an attempt at curbing the dreaded sibling rivalry.
1. Reward evenly. Punish evenly.
This likely won’t surprise my regular readers, but my wife is much more consistent with this than I am. If we come home from work with a toy for one of them, we (and by we, I mean my wife) make sure we balance out the exchange by bringing one for our other son as well. It’s not only fair, but it helps to ensure one of them doesn’t grow to be resentful of us or their brother. My only concern with this tactic, though, is it could lead to our kids still expecting precisely even treatment into their 30s and 40s. And sorry, I’m not calculating the time I spent at one of their houses for Thanksgiving down to the second. Also, it’ll make us poor.
2. Deflate their heads, when necessary.
We all have egos, and it’s likely our siblings are the ones who have to stomach them the most. A great way to enable the growth of that ego is to raise your children to believe that they can do no wrong. I want my boys to know they are capable of doing plenty wrong. This especially applies to how they compare with kid #2. If my younger son is the less athletic of the two but excels at online chess, I want my older son to know that this is an example of him not being superior to his younger brother. Keeps the ever-precious ego in check and ensures that both my kids know that their successes are equally important to us. Besides, chess players are injured far less frequently (saves on medical bills)
3. Remind them what brotherhood means.
You guys are brothers. That’s a special bond you share with each other and no one else. Are you really going to let a few broken bones, a girl known as “Butterscotch” and a night in jail come between you? That’s what I’m prepared to say if I’m ever at a police station at 4:00 a.m.
4. Lead by example (don’t be a jerk).
If I’m not respectful of my wife, how can I expect either of my children to be respectful of the other? Meaning, if I’m reaching over and simply swiping the remote control out of her hand, I shouldn’t be surprised if my sons are equally as grabby. It’s especially challenging to be consistent with this (because asking “May I please have the remote, dear?” makes me feel like Mr. Rogers) but it’s crucial for us to set the tone and not be jerks with each other. If we’re constantly bickering, they’ll grow up thinking it’s acceptable to act that way. So I plan to do all of our bickering behind closed doors instead, like responsible adults.
Ultimately, my kids will have more than their share of fights. I get that. But I believe if I raise them with a healthy respect for each other’s belongings and offer regular reminders that there’s more than one king (or prince) in this castle, they’ll be well-balanced enough to both stand on the proverbial orange skateboard without falling or pushing each other off.
Do you have any strategies to avoid sibling rivalry, or perhaps an old strategy that disastrously failed? I want to hear about it! Feel free to add a comment below to keep this conversation going! Be sure to follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero for more parenting stories, inane observations, and acutely specific social commentary.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Joe DeProspero, Must Read
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
Fia shares with most of her friends. She has never been a baby who says, “That’s mine.” She also isn’t a huge grabber of toys. Until recently. And only with her baby brother. What is up with that?
Who Me? But I’m a perfect princess Mama!
I can have a handful of her friends over playing and with most of them, I run very little interference. But with Emmett it is CONSTANT. And it’s driving me crazy. Everything he grabs for or wants, she suddenly needs. He will be crawling towards his rattle, which she has never shown interest in, and suddenly she is bolting across the room to swoop in and get it before he can. It’s as if her life depends on stealing from him.
We keep telling her to stop it. To share with him. But I am so sick of hearing my own voice repeat this over and over again. She also delights in tackling him. She puts her arms around him from behind (while he’s sitting) and pulls him down on top of her. There have been times that she puts him in a chokehold. He doesn’t seem to enjoy being choked. I can’t imagine why. (He is a tank. He is so going to get back at her once he can hold his own.)
She is always in his space
The thing is, she doesn’t seem to be doing either of these things out of hostility or jealousy. The sharing seems to come from more of a bossy, I’m-in-charge place (wait, is there a mirror around?) and the tackling comes from her obsessive hugging habit. But both need to stop because he’s getting to the age where he cares and starts to cry. And I’m sick of playing referee.
When I say, “Fia, that’s not nice. Give it back to him. He’s upset,” she does, but not after saying, “B-b-u-utt-mama, I need it for just a tiny little bit more. Th-th-then he can share with me later.” She says it with such authority too. If it didn’t drive me crazy, I’d find it hilarious.
Is this normal sibling stuff? And is there a better way of handling it than being a broken record? Fill me in.
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baby brother, choking, hugging, playing, sharing, siblings, siblings sharing, tackling, toddler sharing | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Thursday, August 11th, 2011
Author’s note: I’m stealing a line from Julia’s blog on Parents. ie: If you are trying to get pregnant and having trouble conceiving, don’t read this.
At 14 weeks, baby in belly is the size of a lemon
When Fia was born we felt so lucky. She was healthy and happy. 20 months later, she is all that and more. And I continue to count my blessings. For that reason, and a few others, Phil and I didn’t see a sibling in her future–or ours. Neither of us wanted to jinx our perfect situation. We got a good one, why gamble? I figured maybe down the road we’d adopt.
Friends would say how great it is for kids to have siblings. I wasn’t convinced.
Half the time I hated my siblings and they hated me. There is no guarantee that everyone will like each other. It’s yet another roll of the dice. Just like procreating.
I also didn’t feel like going through another pregnancy. Granted, I had an easy one with Fia, but again, why gamble? Plus, in my AMA–Advanced Maternal Age– (roll eyes at that stupid term) I didn’t want to risk all the things that can happen with old ovaries.
In May, we came back from a family vacation in Costa Rica. Life got busy. I had to make a final trip down to FL to say goodbye to my dying mother. Then I was off to LA for a business trip.
In the back of my head I had a nagging feeling. But my stomach cramps and sore boobs reassured me. Any day now.
One night when Phil was out of town, I poured a nice big glass of wine for myself. I opened up my calendar and began to count. “27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33”… hmmm. I took a sip. Recounted. Sipped again. Recounted. I finished my wine, might have poured a little more, and went into the bathroom to pee.
My internal dialogue went like this: I’ll just look under the sink to see if I have any left over tests–just going to put my mind at ease. Ahhh! There is one. Cool.
Pee on stick (no internal dialogue here).
Watch stick (?&^%*$#@?&)
Gasp. Scream. Run to phone.
“You gotta talk me off the ledge” I yelled.
“What? Are you in a fight with your siblings?” Phil asked with alarm.
“NO,” I shouted. “Fia’s going to have a sibling. I’m pregnant!!”
“What? Seriously? Holy f-ck. Wow. Whoa. …(3-second silence)…Ya know, I like babies.” I grimaced.
“But you don’t have to carry one. And the beginning….”
I was already reliving those first few months when Fia kicked my ass. Lack of sleep and raging hormones turned me into the devil. Not to her—she had my entire heart–but she was the only one.
“We’ll figure it out,” he said. Then added calmly, “I think we’re pretty good at it actually.”
He had a point. We never wanted kids. We’d been married 10 years before we decided to roll the dice. And after those initial “suicide months,” we fell into parenthood like strawberries in chocolate fondue. Swallowed up and coated with a layer of life so delicious neither of us could believe it.
So on the night I peed on the stick, called my husband, and poured the rest of my wine down the sink, I began to embrace this next chapter. It’s a chapter I would have never had the courage—or energy– to write for myself. The universe made the decision for me (along with some recklessness on our part), and I’m going with it. I’ve always enjoyed a good game of blackjack–and have done quite well at times. Time to double down.
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advanced maternal age, AMA, brother, due date, new baby, ovaries, pregnancy, pregnant, sibling, siblings, sister, unexpectedly expecting | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama