parenting · Twin life

United we stand

I’ve discovered a side-effect of Hattie and Joe’s close sibling bond: if I tell off one of them, the other one has started to speak up in defence of their twin. So far, this has primarily been seen with Hattie speaking up for Joe, but I suspect it will also happen in reverse if Hattie is the one receiving the telling-off.

It’s no secret that Joe has been fairly challenging for the last eighteen months: quick to push the boundaries, and prone to melodrama when things don’t go his way. Hattie has been quite adorable in her responses – when he’s collapsed on the floor, howling at the injustice of being expected to sit at the table and eat dinner, she’ll explain to me in conciliatory tones “Joe’s just very tired, Mummy”. And there have been many occasions recently where she’d chosen to take the path of least resistance with him, in order to avoid a battle – for example, if it’s her turn to choose which DVD to watch, and he decides to be difficult and complain about whichever film she’s selected, she will frequently give in for a quiet life (I should add that I often over-rule this and insist that Hattie sticks to her choice, and that Joe lumps it, both because I don’t want to reward his control freakery, and because I don’t want her to grow up thinking that it’s normal to give in to male drama).

This week, however, Hattie’s attempts to placate everybody in the face of Joe’s nonsense have taken a different turn. On Monday, and again this morning, she told me off for telling off Joe. I can’t remember the circumstances surrounding Monday’s incidence, but this morning’s fracas stemmed from my apparently unreasonable request that Joe tell me what he wanted for kindy lunch. He kept replying that he didn’t know, but also insisted that everything I suggested was the wrong choice. After ten minutes of this I told him that I’d just make him jam sandwiches (as per most kindy lunches), at which point he fell to the ground, shrieking.

As we’re not huge fans of people falling to the floor and shrieking at the prospect of eating jam sandwiches, Tristan and I both told him that failing to pack it in would earn him a trip to his room, and also a loss of his beloved dressing-up clothes for a couple of days. He persisted, refused to go to his room (and I’ve got a sore neck and couldn’t lift him), and continued making a huge fuss. So I followed through on my promise that the dressing-up box was now confiscated until Sunday. Of course, this met with even more histrionics. It never ceases to amaze me how shocked my kids are whenever we follow through on consequences, despite always following through on consequences. For bright little kids, they’re a bit slow on the up-take.

Anyway, Joe was howling, and Hattie unwisely decided that this would be a great time to get involved. She’d already told me early in Joe’s dramatic performance that he was a bit tired (yep, that eleven-hour sleep he’d just woken up from must have really taken it out of him), but now she escalated it: eyeballing me and instructing me to “stop being mean to Joe!!”

I calmly suggested that she should mind her own business and not get involved, at which point she acted as though I’d mortally offended her, and got down from the breakfast table and huddled under a curtain, sobbing. Seriously, if anybody in Hollywood needs a couple of four year olds for a heart-rending drama, give me a call…

Later, when everybody had calmed down and we’d had cuddles, I explained to Joe that he was lucky that I even bothered asking him what he wanted for lunch, rather than just deciding, and that his response and subsequent behaviour was out of order. And I explained to Hattie that, as Joe’s mummy, I am actually allowed to deal with his behaviour by warning him about consequences and then following through on them. They seemed to take that to heart, although I have no doubt that this will be merely one of many times in which my children gang up on me.

I later told Hattie that, misguided decision-making aside, it was lovely see that she did stick up for Joe. Good luck to anybody who takes on either of these two kids at school next year…

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