Monday, May 7, 2012

Sibling horseplay

On Sunday evening, I sat down at my laptop planning to write about something cerebral, but it wasn’t meant to be. I was too distracted by the shrieks and giggles ten feet away from where I was writing.

Every now and then, and particularly, it seems, on Sunday evenings, my two children need to let off steam with a long, noisy wrestling session on our bed.

This can be difficult for me to witness. Tim is a head taller than Holly, which doesn’t matter all that much in wrestling, but also thirty pounds heavier, which presumably does. I’m always afraid that calamity will result from these ultra-physical moments between the two of them as Tim slings Holly over his shoulder before tossing her down on the mattress. Of course, there’s always the possibility of his being the injured one as well, the way Holly pounces on his back. They assure me that the big soft cushioning of our double mattress makes it an entirely safe game, but if that’s true, it’s still hard for a mother to watch.

It’s important to their sibling relationship, I realize. They like to let off energy and they like to do so with physical contact. I need to get used to this, despite the fact that it is alien to my background. I grew up with two sisters, and we never got more physical than maybe an occasional piggy-back ride.

My mother was also one of three sisters, so she didn’t notice anything remarkable about our interactions – or lack thereof -- but my father once informed us that the correct way for one sibling in a household to pass by another was with nothing less than a punch to the ribs. Tripping was another acceptable option, he said, and there was always the classic noogie. This was how he and his sister spent their childhoods, he told us, and he didn’t realize that it wasn’t like that in every household. To him, we must have seemed semi-glacial in our physical reserve.

Well, my children will never have that problem; I’ll just be relieved if neither of them breaks an arm or punctures a lung with all this horseplay. But despite my mild anxieties about the orthopedic risks at which they put themselves, I acknowledge that in some ways, this is probably good for them. Not only do they vent some pent-up physical energy; they also develop a sense of their own strength and muscle control. Holly is not fond of organized sports, so this may be the closest she comes most days to testing her gross motor skills.

Still, by 9 p.m. I break it up and tell them they both have to read for ten minutes to calm down before bed. They complain, but they follow my instructions, and within minutes they’re lying side by side, engrosssed in their books.

That’s good for them too. Horseplay, reading – either way, they seem to end a lot of evenings side by side. It’s how life with a sibling should be. That I know, even if I never punched, tripped or noogied my sisters during our own childhood years.

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