Not Her Brother’s Keeper (Thankfully)

My wife and I discover with disturbing frequency that one of the unique perils of having two children is the peril created for the one by the other.  She doesn’t mean anything by it as far as we can tell, but my daughter keeps finding creative ways to commit fratricide.  She really adores her brother though, which is probably the trouble: her affections are not gentle.

The Bible’s Bad Example

One day my daughter discovered a large basket, of the sort used in gifts.  She was really excited and asked nicely to play with it.  It was a basket, not a knife; we didn’t think it could be dangerous.  In fact, we decided to enjoy her excitement and see where it took her.

At first her ambitions seemed harmless enough.  She started packing the basket with a blanket and pillow.  We assumed she was going to use it as a crib for one of her toy animals.  She’s fairly fond of creating beds for her toys.  Fortunately we asked.

Instead she wanted to recreate the Biblical story of Moses, a baby brother, being put in a basket in a river by his big sister.  She thought it particularly convenient that we had supplied her with the baby brother she needed for the game.

Permanent Hide and Seek

She likes hide and seek.  She’s still at the age when she hides in obvious places but doesn’t mind everyone knowing where she’s hiding as long as they make a show of pretending to be confused.  In fact she’ll tell us where she’s going to hide and then tell us to look for her somewhere else before we “find” her there.  It’s all charming.

One day she decided that she would hide under our laundry basket and some pillows.  She had so much fun there that she wanted to share the experience with her brother, even though he didn’t want it.

We caught her as she was pushing down on a pillow-filled basket from which there came a muffled but thoroughly unhappy wailing.  Apparently she figured that he just didn’t understand how to hide, so she needed to wedge him into place to teach him.

More of a Good Thing

My son is vocally afraid of water–bath times are always a treat–however one day while he and his sister were outside, she started splashing him from the baby pool.  I rushed to intervene, only to discover that he was delighted.  Every time she splashed him, he laughed and bounced and showed that he thought this was a great thing to do.

I have worked for years (largely without success) to overcome my daughter’s fear of water; I figured if my son discovered early that water was fun, that could only be a good thing.

The next day though, my daughter decided to take splashing to the next level.  More exactly, she decided that if her brother liked a little bit of water splashed on him by his sister, he would like it even more if she pointed our garden hose at his face.  Apparently his gurgled screams were no indication to the contrary.

A Crown Other Than Gold

We have these plastic rings–I think they’re supposed to be pool toys–and they fit very nicely on my son’s head.  They look like crowns or halos.  Even better, he enjoys having them on his head, and will sometimes put them there himself.

This is the origin of the game Ring-head.  He puts a ring on his head; we all cheer and shout, “Ring-head!”  He takes the ring off; we all wait expectantly.  He puts the ring back on his head; we all cheer and shout again.  Repeat as necessary.

He laughs.  We laugh.  Everybody lives.

Then his sister decided to vary the game by using other objects she found around the house.  Towel-head worked.  Bucket-head worked (because the bucket is small).  Toy-head mostly didn’t work, but was still enjoyable since my son seemed to enjoy various toys rolling off his head

Plastic-bag-head did not work.

* * *

We’re pretty sure she’s not doing these sorts of things on purpose.  As I said she actually adores her baby brother.  (This is an entirely new concern about her eventual teenage years: that she might accidentally kill any boy she has a crush on.)  I’m more worried about what’s going to happen when he’s a little bit bigger and more coordinated.  He may start adoring her back, and things here could become ridiculous.

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Big Baby

My son gets his size from me.  I expected that; I just didn’t expect him to get it so quickly.  He’s not a year old yet–he actually has a way to go still–but he’s rapidly approaching the size of a full grown adult…  elephant.  (I’m exaggerating, but not as much as you might think.)

Big Baby

 

When we put him next to other babies, he looks like a member of a different species.  Perhaps a species that grows bigger by absorbing other babies.  It’s a little bit frightening, so we keep a bit of distance between them.  Soon he’ll be able to crawl though, and then we might need to lock other babies outside.  That’ll work until he discovers that he’s strong enough to crawl through walls.

If he had green skin, we would license him to Marvel.  He has a somewhat limited skill set–they would probably need to tailor their movies to include more suckling and falling over–but he’s getting better at smashing.

All of this is a surprise.  We’re not sure why.  Our daughter has always been large, something I should really stop saying before she becomes a teenager.  We take her out in public and worry that people will think bad things about her, because she seems like an obnoxious and immature eight-year-old.  In fact she’s merely an energetic but conspicuously enormous three-year-old.

When I sort laundry, I have trouble telling my daughter’s clothes from my wife’s.  Admittedly, that might be more my problem.

In any event, we’ve joked that my son is as large as he is because God knew he would need some sort of advantage to survive growing up with his sister.  Being a mastodon gives him a certain degree of sturdiness, which is a useful defense against the unregulated affections of a three year old who thinks full speed collisions and climbing on a person’s head are a signs of affection.

Granted, I pity her when the tables are turned in a few more months.

Additionally, imagine how big God will have to make our next child to survive life with both of them!

No Sense Putting It Off

The evidence is actually pretty clear.  Kids are significantly (and unfairly) disadvantaged (to use a euphemistic word for “hurt”) when they don’t have positive, consistent, reliable, present fathers.  The absence of fathers causes confusion, distress, distorted relationships, and large-scale societal breakdown, in addition to such a wide variety of other effects as to be staggering.

Non-partisan groups and even those partisan groups who are normally inclined to disagree with each other, all agree about this.  The research is overwhelming trending toward sickening.  It’s important to be clear too, that the research specifically discusses the involvement of a male parent, rather than a merely androgynous second parent, a void which could be filled by either sex.

Presumably something similar could be said about the necessity of a female parent, but discounting those women who neglect/abuse/murder their children, women are less inclined to be deadbeats.  That is to say, it’s significantly less likely that children would grow up without mothers, so there isn’t as much evidence for the negative impacts of not having a mother.  Thankfully, I think every person on the planet is willing to grant that mothers are important.  No one wants to find out what would happen without them.

Unfortunately, as I’ve already said, we as a society are almost eager to find out what will happen if we eliminate fathers.  We may say otherwise, but our actions betray us.

I digress.  Back to the overwhelming evidence that children need fathers, combined with the assumption I think we’ll all happily grant, that children need mothers.  Even more research suggests the rather obvious fact that children are best served when their fathers and mothers have a healthy relationship with each other.  In fact, once you add the weight of research about the damaging effects of divorce, it’s pretty clear that children’s best hope is to have mothers and fathers who have a consistent and reliably healthy relationship with each other over the course of the child’s entire development.

There’s not really anything shocking about any of this.  I mean, it’s shocking that we’ve let the problem get to the point that we have, but it isn’t shocking that the problem exists, and nobody significantly disagrees about its causes.

What’s more shocking is what we do about it.

Let me put this bluntly.  All the evidence clearly indicates that children are hurt if they don’t grow up in a committedly monogamous heterosexual family, and that society follows them into distress.  We respond by ignoring that entirely and hoping for the best.  Of course there are situations where the ideal isn’t possible; I’m not trying to criticize people if their situation is imperfect.  I’m criticizing all of us for accepting the lie that the ideal isn’t necessary or helpful.

The results are in:  denial isn’t working.  We have too many contradictory commitments.

We want men to be fathers, but we don’t want to offend women by suggesting that men are in any way capable of doing or being something which they (women) cannot do or be.  In fact we want to avoid any suggestion that there’s a difference between them sufficient to perhaps treat them differently. We certainly don’t want to suggest that the women who are mothers might in any way need the men who are fathers.

The collapse of fatherhood is exactly the product of those second commitments though.  To be blunt again, for a hundred years feminists have said that they don’t need men, that they can do anything men can do, that there is nothing special or unique about being a man.  Should we be surprised that so many men have listened?  That so many men have left women to fend for themselves, have left women to do what men ought to do, have stopped believing that they have anything special to offer.

We want children to see healthy relationship between their mothers and fathers, but we don’t want to believe that men and women might both have unique and important contributions to relationships. We want children to have families, but we don’t want to offend anyone by suggesting that they curtail their sexual impulses until they’re in some way committed to their partner.

I could go on, but I’m out of time again.  It’s pretty clear which of the contradictory commitments we favor.  The question remains: how long will we keep trying to preserve the helpful things our commitments won’t allow?  How long will we delude ourselves into thinking that maybe we can preserve social institutions which we’ve entirely gutted, like fatherhood and family?  How long until we accept that all of our supposed liberations are in fact the problem we face?

The Bucket Battle

My daughter and I are involved in a protracted claims dispute over a stuffed animal, an adorable and floppy stuffed sheep.  Being a small child, my daughter rather naturally assumes that it (and everything else, if we’re being honest) is hers.  Meanwhile, I’m the middle-aged man who keeps trying to take it back because it’s his favorite.  You know, in a manly way.

The sheep’s name is Bucket, because I’m awesome with names.  I got it when I was in Continue reading