I lost my temper.
We had driven to the snow for the weekend. It had been the usual drive that drives are with kids – lots of are-we-there-yet’s and numerous requests for snacks, quibbles over what to play on our perilously strung DVD player, half-hearted sing-alongs and games of I Spy; by the time we made it to the cabin, up the snow-covered stairs and into the mud room, I was simultaneously cold and sweaty. As I tried to remove everyone’s boots, my eight-year old asked for something (Gum? An answer to an economics question? Whether she could use the bathroom?) and I could feel my patience give way like a levee. I yelled something at her; I really don’t know what I said – something about can she see that I needed a moment here – but whatever it was, it was enough to provoke a bursting into tears.
But they weren’t her tears; they were her five-year old brothers’.
“You can’t talk to her like that!” he stood, speaking firmly to me, defending her. “You shouldn’t raise your voice. You should say sorry to her, Mom!” he demanded, huge crocodile tears rolling down his face onto his snowsuit, his ski hat askew, a tiny Robin Hood in a parka.
She and I both stared at him, stunned.
I apologized, of course. In my quest for a fun family trip, I had lost the point of it all: the fun. As we hugged, the three of us a pile of insulation, I realized the long hoped for shift had happened: they had each other’s backs.
After all, during the past five years of normal sibling squabbles – she got more, he got more, it’s not fair, he picked last time – I’ve often said to them: Remember, when the chips are down, your brother, your sister will always be there for you. Take care of one another. Look out for each other.
Of course, I imagined they would be standing up to a bully on the playground – not to me, an overwrought, impatient Snow Shrew. But still, once I got over feeling terrible about being so terrible, I felt great for them.
It’s them against the world, I hope – even when I’m the world.