I remember the day I realized my kids were a united front. I can see it so clearly, like it happened yesterday.
I think the girls were 3 ½ which would have made Will 7. And they got in trouble for doing something, but I’m not sure what. I was annoyed at them, but I can’t remember what I said.
Okay, so obviously I don’t remember exactly. In fact, based on my description it seems I barely remember at all. But it’s just the circumstances I can’t recall. What I do remember is the moment, their little huddle, their expressions. That I can see clearly.
I think I was angry about a mess they made. As I was growling at them about it, they started shuffling slowly towards each other. And as they moved closer together they started giving each other knowing looks, which I didn’t even know was possible for 3 and 7 year olds. Looks that said things like, Just keep quiet until she’s done, Don’t make any sudden movements, and Let’s just let her nag herself out. I could have sworn I spotted a nearly imperceptible preschooler eye roll.
And that was it. The moment I knew they were a united front. Against me.
Up until that point I felt like we were all a team. And I was the MVP, the star player. The team looked to me for everything. A hug and a kiss and a bandaid after a tumble. A snuggle and a story before bed. A game of hide and seek. A library book driven to school when it was forgotten. A clean up after an accident. Medicine when they were sick. Diaper changes. All their laundry washed and folded and washed and folded again. Dinners, well not just dinners, but all their food all the time. Baths and hairbrushing and teeth brushing and bed making and room cleaning. And milk! All the glasses of milk I’ve poured!
I wasn’t the MVP after all. I was their coach. I drove them to the games. I booked their hotel rooms. I ordered their uniforms. And nagged them and told them what to do. A lot. Now don’t get me wrong, coaches are great. But they aren’t on the team!
I want to be on the team! I thought I was on the team! Remember that time when our bodies were basically one? Did that count? Was I on the team then?
As I watched them with their heads close together talking in hushed voices compwete with developmentawy appwopwiate speech impediments I felt happy for them. Look! I thought, they have each other!
Because really, I’m not meant to be a teammate. I am here to coach them. To teach them, to guide them, to encourage them, and to give them consequences when they make bad choices. You can’t do that when you are in the game. It’s got to come from the sidelines.
And so, did I feel a little left out? Sure. But as a coach I was proud of them. Proud in that moment that they recognized they had teammates there to support them.
This is going to be huge for them as they are growing up. Not only having siblings who get it and who can support them and comfort them, but to have someone to roll their eyes with when mom nags too much or whistles too loud.
And being on this team will bond them for life.
Because isn’t it nice when you run into someone who had a similar growing up experience? Your mom taught aerobics too? Your dad can go 2,000 miles away and still run into people he knows too? You kind of feel like you know them.
For siblings it’s the same, but magnified. My kids will grow up and move out (fingers crossed) and away (but not too far I hope!) and meet new people with different stories, different backgrounds. Some of those people will have parents similar to theirs but only their team will have all their experiences in common.
No matter where their lives lead them, and how different their own families may be, they will always remember their first team. Their memories will bring the team right back together. I imagine it will go something like this:
Hey, remember that one time Mom got so mad that we didn’t clean up our toys so she got a trash bag out and told us she was going to throw them away and one of us called her bluff and said, ‘Fine, I’ll help!’ and we started putting the toys in the garbage bag and then mom got so sad because she liked our toys so much she started crying a little and never ended up throwing them away?!
Ok, so maybe I do remember what happened that day.