Young children close in age are best of friends and playmates most of the time, but will eventually revert to primitive instinctual behavior when vying for a coveted toy, favorite television program, snack or their parents´ attention. In our home with FIVE kids with the eldest being 8 and the youngest 2, competition is stiff and each child must cultivate and hone a specific talent that draws attention to themselves over others.
Darwin ’s renowned Survival of the Fittest theory states that in the natural and oftentimes hostile world, where many predators are competing for a limited supply of prey, only the genes of the strongest and fittest of each species will survive and continue mutating and adapting to its respective environmental conditions.
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My house is a live laboratory where this time-honored theory is in constant trial. It’s like an all day marathon episode of Survivor and sometimes resembles more an Animal Planet program. New attitudes, approaches and behaviors are experimented with and fail, others are more successful, and practiced by all.
On certain days, when the moon is full, some resort to savage-like behavior to get my attention. Others are more diplomatic in general and practice polite words and bestow compliments.
Each one of my children has their own personal style and preferred tactics they have proven successful in getting them what they want, before anyone else-
My youngest boy and fourth in line will gently “tip toe” over to me,
“Mommy, you’re a Princess Jaguar.” Huge smile. “Could I have chocolate milk with no chocolate in the blue cup, only in the blue cup?”
(I reiterate his wish back to him to see if now, by the 46th time, he will recognize the innate senselessness of his favorite beverage description.)
“Just lemme make sure- you want a cup of milk, I mean chocolate milk, but white and without the chocolate in the blue cup?”
“Ahhh, Yep.” Nodding in agreement after thoughtful analysis.
(Guess he still doesn’t get the inherent nonsense.)
The youngest and most devilish pistol will grab a part of my body, usually a limb, and pull me- oftentimes dragging me across the floor compelling me to tend to her needs in blatant disregard for anyone or anything else.
If she weren’t so darn charming and delectable, I would kill her! Her strategy is to wear me down physically to get me to comply as she makes me do laps around the house chasing her. Eventually I need to tackle her to the ground in order to accomplish diapering her chubby rear.
My eldest daughter, a true Taurus, will charm me to a certain point, her breaking point, and then tire easily. If results are not achieved within 4 attempts, she becomes frustrated, self-pitying and belligerent all at within about 180 seconds- which as this point usually brings her to bedroom isolation.
She is feisty, proud and annoyingly persistent like her mom. She is so real and has such a big heart and battles endlessly with her “evil inclination;” she is a walking, breathing manifestation of Freud’s description of the perpetual confrontation between the id, ego, and superego.
My second eldest and also girl is seemingly naïve, yet a stunning master in softening up her folks. She weighs all of 39 pounds soaking wet, has adorable bony feet and is 6 ½ years old. She eats next to nothing, is very petite, has a big confident and sensitive personality and a sweet, sweet smile. She melts my heart.
This unassuming little “Slickster”- was professing her love to me one day as she nonchalantly handed me a piece of paper. I slipped it into a book I was holding and thought nothing of it. After 10 patient minutes of shooting the breeze with me, she bellows out,
“Mommy, ya´ know that paper I gave you a few minutes ago?”
“Yeah, what about it?" I asked.
“That is a list with everything I want for my birthday for the next several years.” Smooth and impressive- nothing less than brilliant. Where did she learn such skills?
My eldest boy, number three in the food chain, is drop dead gorgeous and at the tender age of 5 has already been in and out of more relationships than Hugh Heffner. He plays soccer like Beckman, walks duck-style like his uncle, and has more unbridled fury than an active volcano.
He is still polishing his skill set as we seek to help him constantly channel and drain his overabundance of energy into something productive so he doesn’t carelessly get himself into trouble.
A few weeks ago he asked my husband and I if “bikinis really exist?”
Then he corrected himself to say “genies.” Thank God for the misunderstanding, no more testosterone for this boy, please!
All and all, in our home everyone gets a chance to shine. It is not always an even score, but it works most of the time.
Some days the kids interact, negotiate and collaborate so nicely I want to burst open and cry with pride. Other times, most of it really, I am a referee literally tearing them off one another like a feuding pack of wild hounds- and it takes every last molecule of strength I have to accomplish this feat continuously throughout each day.
My latest philosophy is not to get involved til one is bleeding or with a fractured limb. (Just kidding- I’d give attention to a sprained ankle also.)
Seriously to some extent, I choose not to intervene thereby allowing them to perfect their conciliation techniques and bargaining abilities by way of trial and error. These are talents they must acquire mostly by doing, with little accompanying theoretical explanation.
Yes, the competition is brutal and relentless, but I am certain each one will have achieved the equivalent of a doctorate in whichever methodologies they learn and apply to win people over with their individual charm and charisma.
Despite all the sloppiness and apparent disorder, it contents me to no end that by the end of each day, they all go to sleep with a deeply satisfied smile plastered across their little flawless faces for they have each other with whom to share life and learn all about the delicate balance of “nature.”