“I want you to think about what you’re saying to each other,” I sigh, as yet another thoughtless remark rolls off Ruby’s tongue. “It would be a good Lenten penance to bridle your tongues. Perhaps we should have given up unkind words instead of chocolate.”
Do your children ever bicker? My girls seem to have slipped into a careless habit of talking to each other: unkind remarks seem to slip off their tongues so easily. I’ve had enough. I decide a lecture is called for.
“You wouldn’t talk to your friends the way you talk to each other. You’d be too frightened. A friend mightn’t want to know you any more if you talked to her like that. Just because your sister can’t stop being your sister, doesn’t mean you can treat her any way you want. In fact, you should take even more care how you treat your family. We’re supposed to love each other but no one would know it by listening to what you say to each another.” (I’m sure I’ve heard all these words before. Did they come from my mother’s mouth?)
I have a bit of a rant and a rave and then four girls, some more guilty than others, are released from the lecture. They slink off. They have lots to think about.
Soon I have to head out the door for a dental appointment. It is such a beautiful autumn day. I drive along past all the paddocks of cows and notice the trees which are just beginning to turn red and yellow. I think how perfect a day it would be to go to the lake. I start to plan the afternoon. We could pack cake and chocolate milk and the girls could take their scooters. They’d enjoy rolling along the paths while I sit at a picnic table, soaking up the autumn sun. I could take a book along to read.  I have it all worked out.
I return home. I stride through the door with a smile on my face. “Get your scooters ready. We’re going to the lake! I have treats for afternoon tea.”
A few minutes later I notice Ruby. She has her woe-is-me face on, her please-notice-I am-not-happy face. “What’s up Ruby?”
“Well, Scarlet wasn’t very nice to me. She said… and then she said…”
“Wait! Scarlet what happened?”
“Ruby was really nasty. She said… and then she said…”
My heart sinks. My cheerful warm mood is gone. “I don’t want to hear any more! Didn’t you listen to a word I said this morning?” (I think those words also belonged to my mother.)
All of a sudden I don’t feel inclined to take Ruby and Scarlet to the lake. They sound like two spoilt girls who don’t appreciate anything. They could have been happy and excited about going on an outing. Instead they feel they have to tell tales on each other. I decide that the trip out is off. “That’s it! I’m not taking you two girls anywhere. Bianca and Violet can come with me into town. We’ll do some shopping and we might stop for a milkshake. But you too are staying right here!” Instantly tears start to spurt from eyes and noses begin to run.
I look at the two sad girls. I could change my mind. I could say, “This is a warning. Next time I really will cancel the treat.” I look out the window at the glorious sunny afternoon and am tempted to give in. How many more perfect autumn afternoons are we going to get before winter arrives? But for once, I don’t give in to my too soft heart. I ignore the tears.
“While I am out I want you both to cook dinner together. I expect you to cooperate and not to fight.” The tears flow even faster as they both realise that this time I am going to stand firm.
So without a backward look, I go through the front door followed by two girls, not four.
Have I made the right decision? I feel such a bad mother. These thoughts go through my head as we drive along. They would have loved going to the lake. Couldn’t I have just warned them?
Three hours later, I draw up on the driveway. I don’t know what to expect as I enter the house. The first thing I notice is a delicious smell: dinner is bubbling away on the stove. The kitchen is clean and tidy. And two girls are sitting side by side at the kitchen table sewing together.
“Scarlet helped me sew this heart!” announces Ruby showing me a beautiful green and pink stuffed felt heart. Scarlet is still putting the finishing touches to her heart. They add hanging threads to their creations and then thrust them towards me: “We made them for you, Mum!”
“Scarlet also helped me ice the cake I made.”
“And we cooked the dinner.”
“I just love you, Scarlet!” exclaims Ruby. Scarlet smiles and allows herself to be engulfed in a tight younger sister hug.
Peace has returned to our home… at least for today.
Do you sometimes despair over the behaviour of your children? Do you sometimes have to steel yourself to hand out a punishment? And does your too soft heart ache as you have to deny your children something you know they will enjoy?
 As you know I don’t really have four daughters called Bianca, Ruby, Scarlet and Violet. Names have been changed to save embarrassment!
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  1. Hi Sue, as you know I have only one child so I don't experience the bickering between siblings but I do recall them from my childhood. I think it was great to have the two of them have to complete a project together like making dinner. I also liked how you compared how they treat each other to how they would treat their friends. Great insight!

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  2. Hi Noreen, during Lent last year we read Fr Lovasik's "The Hidden Power of Kindness" out loud as we sat around the table after lunch. It gave us much food for thought. I think Fr Lovasik talked about how we treat friends differently to family. Anyway, it is a great book. Thanks fot stopping by. God bless!

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  3. Thanks for the book tip Sue. I will have to get it.

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  4. I can really relate to this, Sue. Why do my children not always love each other as I love them?!
    Thank you for this post. It is encouraging to read about shared challenges when the internet has a way of making other families lives seem so perfect.

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  5. Hi Vicky, I think our children do love each other more than is sometimes immediately obvious. They can take each other for granted and sometimes forget to treat each other with the kindness love calls for. But then again, don't we as adults sometimes fail to take care in our own relationships? We can also become careless with our language and actions.

    I know our children love each other deeply and it is always encouraging to see how fiercely they defend each other when a threat comes from outside the family. Thank you for stopping and making a comment and giving me the opportunity to think more about this issue!

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  6. You're welcome, Noreen. It's a book packed with wisdom.

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