Saturday, October 26, 2013

Not Quite as Thick as Thieves...but We're Working on It

Here I am referring to the relationship between Matthew and Lizzie.  This has been a tough go, overall.  Both of these kids (ages 9 and 6) are loving, kind-hearted children, but beyond that they are oh-so-very different!

Although the age gap between our oldest and youngest children is only 40 months (not even 3.5 years!), that difference constitutes a very large divide between Matthew and Lizzie at the moment.  They have very different personalities and very different strengths.  Where Matthew tends towards slight introversion and cerebral pursuits, Lizzie is the most extraverted child I've ever met and more inclined to spontaneous and social pursuits.  Where Matthew leans towards being shy and non-competitive, Lizzie is the antithesis of shy and really likes to triumph...and throws herself on the floor in grief when she doesn't!  (Just yesterday, on route to Seth's first indoor soccer game, Matthew told him that he hoped Seth had a great time and that it was everything Seth hoped for; Lizzie said "I just want you to score lots of goals, many will you get?" Classic difference between the two!)  Where Matthew likes to retire to a quiet room to regain his equilibrium and will listen to an audio book while he draws, Lizzie would pretty much rather throw herself out the window than be by herself...and when she is required to be on her own for an occasional quiet time, she blasts her CDs at a volume that, frankly, makes us all a little crazy.  There is absolutely nothing quiet or delicate about Lizzie, in contrast to the highly sensitive and emotionally-quite-fragile Matthew.

Perhaps another dynamic to throw into the mix is Lizzie's tendency towards mischievousness and her love of 'poking' at people.  Her charm and charisma with people lend her a very intuitive understanding of people and when it comes to her brothers, she knows exactly where and how to administer a verbal (or actual) poke in order to draw their outrage...and then she laughs and laughs while her eyes twinkle...and her oldest brother is more than a little willing to help her jump out that window!

It's been a tumultuous relationship, to say the least.  A rather typical scenario, until recently, might go something like this, unless I've been able to get there in time to avert disaster:  Lizzie does something (quietly, so that I don't hear it!) to annoy Matthew and Matthew asks her to stop (relatively politely); Lizzie laughs and does the same thing again, watching Matthew intently;  Matthew asks her to stop, in a more heated voice this time; Lizzie ups the ante again and then watches while Matthew dissolves into tears and, on occasion, slugs her; Lizzie dramatically runs to me and cries that Matthew has wounded her and that he's entirely at fault!  It's a vicious cycle, one that I'm getting better these days at anticipating and even circumventing.

All of that being said...

Geoff and I have been noticing some improvements in their relationship over the course of the past few weeks...we think it's mostly a bit of maturation on Matthew's side.  He's been a little more patient with her when she pesters him; has, will wonders never cease, initiated play with her on a few occasions; has tolerated her tendencies to copy him with a little more grace than usual; and generally been more patient with her one-hundred-and-one (often repeated) questions.  The other night, when we were doing some cooking together as a family, he actually kissed her on the cheek for no reason at all...creating a Lizzie sensation of jumping up and down with joy and her elated declaration that "Matthew loves me!!" A few days ago, Matthew told me that he was, indeed, starting to love Lizzie a little more; I just casually answered that "yes, I've noticed that" and left it at that, but inwardly I was doing my own little dance of joy.

The truth is that Matthew does love Lizzie very much...he just doesn't always know it!  When Lizzie is hurt, for example, Matthew is often the first to come and find me, with real concern.  Soon after, when he knows she's ok, he changes gears and may even mock her a little, but I think that's just to cover up his embarrassment that he was so concerned at the outset.  Just this week, Lizzie bonked her head hard on a door knob and, just as I was arriving on the scene to provide comfort, I saw that Matthew had taken her into his arms and was patting her back while she rested her head against his chest - I stopped dead in my tracks and backed away quietly...a little stunned.  Then, also this week, while she was (ceaselessy) imitating Matthew, I was just about to intervene when Matthew looked over at me and said, with great tolerance and a big sigh, "little sisters, sometimes...."  That was amazing to me - no impatience on his part, just acceptance and tolerance and even a little amusement.

I'm encouraged and hopeful, perhaps all the more so because it's been hard to watch the relationship between the two of them at times.  Because Lizzie is also extremely affectionate (her clear preference is to be in physical contact with another person at all times), when the two of them are getting along a bit more, she is all over Matthew - she loves to kiss him, wrap her arms around him, scratch his back and tuck him under blankets, stroke his forehead with the gentlest of fingers and run those fingers through his hair, etc these moments, she'd give him the shirt off of her back and her last handful of smarties.

Given both kids' kind-hearted natures, I have a feeling that if we can harness this more loving side of their relationship, they will have a very special and unique relationship right through their adulthood.  Despite their different natures, they're both the kinds of kids that could be really good friends to each other when adults - Lizzie will be the one organizing the family dinners and bringing her brothers cookies and soup when they're not feeling well and will stay with them until they're better...and Matthew will be the one to lend Lizzie his ears when she needs to talk and talk and talk and pour out her heart and use his wise heart as a sounding board.

So, having invested considerable effort match-making efforts into Matthew and Seth over the past number of months (and still am working on this), I've recently decided to do a little more match-making...this time between my oldest and youngest.  There's a lot of depth to that relationship...the loving aspects of it just need to be a little more dominant.  

I can see it all happening...we're just still on route.


  1. I was thinking about when they are teenagers. Matthew will be telling Lizzie that boys don't always want to talk and that she has to "chill" on a date. Lizzie will be telling Matthew he HAS to change his look and pick out his date outfits.
    They'll get there!

  2. Thanks Missy...what a great image!!


  3. Hi Ruth, been thinking of you this fall due to 2 things, miss your contribution to FS (yes we are busy and missing you) and 2 Kalyn has been putting the finishing touches on her book which made me want to check in on your blog... fun reading your recent posts. Hope you have a great fall... and let me know when you are ready to apply your finely honed parental mediation strategies and skills back into the market place :-)

  4. Thanks David! It's nice to be missed...particularly, perhaps, at a professional level...nothing like 2+ years home full time to foster this!. And yes, I'd say I have honed a number of mediation strategies and skills over the past couple of years...along with some razor-sharp intuition skills!

    Wow - Kalyn has a book ready - good for her!! Would love to know more about that. Keep me posted and send along my congratulations to her - that's really awesome.

    I hope you're doing well...and thanks for checking in here.