Since school let out a week ago, I have had a front row seat to a really sweet show. Apparently, my kids grew up more than I realized this past school year, and I'm getting a huge parental payday.
3 years ago, our family went to a leadership conference at Philmont Scout Ranch. While we were there, one of the leaders' wives talked about raising 4 sons. I thought, "I HAVE to talk to this lady!" At the time, my boys fought constantly. Nothing I did seemed to help, and I felt like I was doing everything wrong as their mother. In fact, two of my boys even got into a scuffle, elbowing each other, in front of our entire church congregation while up front singing with the other children for Mother's Day!! Not to worry, though. The Stake President (leader over the 10 or so local congregations) was sitting right near them and broke up the fight. ((Cringe.))
I finally had the opportunity to talk to her toward the end of the conference. I asked her how I could help my boys love each other and stop all the fighting. She thought about it for a bit, and tried to answer my question, but didn't have any real advice for me other than "It gets better. Hang in there." At the time, that answer was hugely dissatisfying. I was struggling and wanted something I could do.
Well, it turns out she was right. As my boys mature, they are better equipped to handle the daily frustrations of family life with something other than their fists. I even overheard Garrett last night as he told Joseph, "I actually like you." No joke. Made me smile.
I started noticing the huge change last Sunday. I was driving home from church with the boys and Kate. Two of the boys were arguing about something, and neither of them wanted to give an inch. All of a sudden, I heard Cameron's voice from the back seat, "Hey guys... I think I just wet my pants." Needless to say, the arguing stopped immediately, and they started laughing. As I talked to Cameron later (whose pants were of course dry), he said, "I knew they would stop fighting if they were laughing, and it was the first thing that popped into my head." Love that boy! What a gift that little insight was to me.
Today, he took Garrett for a ride on the riding mower while he cut the grass, and even taught him how to drive it. Garrett was over the moon. Imagine my delight when Garrett paid the love forward tonight, and "secret elfed" his little brother with an anonymous gift of one of his old books.
After receiving the book, Joseph went and got dressed. He had an interview scheduled with our Bishop at the church in preparation for his upcoming baptism. He proudly picked out a suit, vest, and tie, but needed some help with his shoes. They were badly scuffed on the toes, and he wanted to look his best. We needed to leave right then to make it on time, however. Cameron quickly grabbed a Sharpie marker and colored in all of the scuff marks, and the shoes actually looked great! Then, as we walked out the door, he took the time to straighten Joseph's tie and tuck his shirt in. Yep - I was pretty touched.
And I can't leave the girls out! Being 16 years apart, they do not fight. No surprise there. I've been able to witness a lot of sweetness between them as well. Yesterday, while I was running errands with the boys, Ashley stayed home with Kate, and instead of just managing the toddler, actually took her upstairs to sing karaoke, played dress-up with her, took a bunch of pictures, and in general, had a ball with her little sis. Another heart-happy moment for mom... especially when she posted her favorite picture from the morning on Facebook for all of her friends to see.
So - if your kids are fighting (and mine still do. We're making progress, but don't let me give the impression that we've "arrived."), hang in there. It does get better! Keep teaching them, keep reminding them that they love each other, give them chances to work out their differences, and be patient. Eventually, the repeated messages take hold and their maturity level catches up... and it's awesome. I'm realizing that they have gained some real skills through the years of figuring this out: how to say what they feel without anger, how to use humor when things are tense, how to remember that the person is more important than the problem, etc. etc. I'm excited that they will take these skills with them when they leave home and have their own families.
And finally- a semi-related subject. Kate has lots of older siblings to look toward and emulate, and boy does she ever! We caught some funny video of her this week singing some of the big kids' music. (Garrett took the video in the car. Not bad, huh?) I also included a bit of her big sis practicing one of her solos for her music camp audition next week because, gosh - I could listen to her forever these days. She sounded so beautiful while I was working in the kitchen that I grabbed my phone and filmed a bit. The phone video does not do it justice - in fact, some of her high notes even freaked the machine out and made the video skip a bit, but you'll get the idea. (Grandma - we are going to have to arrange for you two to sing together while we are visiting this summer. I think the only thing more beautiful would be to hear you two TOGETHER!)