“Girls! Knock it off!” my husband yells from his recliner. There is a moment of silence, and then the ruckus starts all over again.
I am not sure why we are conditioned to feel utter agitation when we hear our kids roughhousing. It may be that, even though they are merely having fun with each other, we know from experience that those innocent giggles, if allowed to continue, are usually followed by alarming noises that require immediate parental intervention.
Here’s the scenario: After about five minutes of giggling between siblings, an invisible line is crossed. The play becomes rougher, and inevitably, skin is pinched, hair is pulled, heads are bonked, or some other pain is inflicted. Screaming or crying ensues, followed shortly thereafter by a very loud argument, usually accompanied by slapping, kicking and biting.
That is when parents have to get up from the comfort of their lounge furniture and intervene, which is annoying, especially when “Survivor” is on. So, rather than wait for this series of irritating events, we try to stop sibling interactions while they are still in the giggling phase.
As a child, I never understood how siblings can be the best of friends and the worst of enemies at the same time. I remember watching my best friend from high school and her older sister viciously beat each other with hangers. Back then, I thought they must’ve hated each other’s guts, but now, with girls of my own, I understand that the violent hanger beating was all part of sisterly love.
The age difference between my brother and I was too big for us to be playmates, so we never engaged in the “giggling phase” of sibling roughhousing. Essentially, my very existence annoyed my brother for some reason, so he would inflict pain on me purely for his own personal pleasure.
When my brother was idle, he transformed into the predator, and I was his prey. He would launch sneak attacks like Cato in “The Pink Panther,” jumping out from dark corners to place me in a headlock. After receiving a book on judo one Christmas, I often found myself being flipped over his knee on my way to my bedroom. At restaurants, my brother’s preferred method of attack was spitballs, and at church, he would pinch the sensitive area above my knee with his thumb and forefinger if he did not decimate me first at church bulletin tic-tac-toe.
I would always cry, whine or otherwise alert my parents to the attack, and they would ground my brother for a period of time commensurate with the injury. The punishment only served to fuel my brother’s motivation to torment me, and this pattern went on and on for years.
I can only recall one occasion when I got the upper hand, and it didn’t last for long. One lazy day after school, I was stretched out on my parent’s bed, with my head resting on one bent arm while the other hand slowly smoothed the day’s knots out of my long hair with a pink plastic hairbrush.
As I gazed half-awake into the nearby television, which was playing reruns of “My Three Sons,” I had no idea that my brother was silently crawling commando-style into the room on his stomach.
Just as Uncle Charlie was about to give dating advice to Chip, my brother popped up from the floor between my face and the television and blurted, “BOO!”
Taken completely by surprise, animal instinct took over, and I watched in slow motion as my hand whipped the pink plastic hairbrush in the direction of my brother’s face. Next thing I knew, he had both hands over his nose.
I crouched on the bed in a defensive posture as my brother looked into his hands and saw blood. His eyes glared at me with the pure fire of utter vengeance. He leaped onto the bed, and kneeling over me, raised one hand into the air in a tight fist, with the middle knuckle protruding slightly for maximum point of impact pain.
WHAM! His knuckle hit the center of my thigh, causing an immediate Charley horse and excruciating pain. I walked with a slight limp for the next couple weeks, but it was worth it, knowing I had finally given my big brother a dose of his own medicine.
Call it sibling rivalry, brotherly love, or aggravated assault, roughhousing is a normal part of life with siblings. As long as parents don’t encourage mortal combat by supplying their children with books on judo or hard plastic hairbrushes, we can sit back and relax in our lounge furniture secure in the knowledge that what doesn’t kill them only makes them stronger.
Sorry for the short lapse in posts, folks! We just moved (AGAIN) and are wading among scores of boxes, cable guys and computer geeks to get things set up here in the new Molinari household. Expect upcoming posts related to all aspects of chaos, disorganization, ineptitude, extreme laziness, and overeating, of course.