getting along

Every time I feel smug about my children’s kindness to each other, a scene like this ensues:

(Love their tanned, summer-bruised legs. Love the way Xander stays out of the fray, just enjoying his drink. Love how Hans laughs his way through the fight. And since Gabe is so rarely involved in conflict, I love his intensity.)

Scarcely a day goes by that we don’t have some sort of dispute over crucial, life-threatening matters like “That’s my Lego wheel!” “He’s cheating at Monopoly.” “Who ate the last Cadbury egg?” (note: add Cadbury mini-eggs to shopping list) With 48 relationships in our household, one of them is bound to be shaky at any given time. But we do work on being kind. We work hard.

My first goal in parenting– before I ever had children– was to teach them to love each other. In high school, I knew two brothers who treated each other with absolute kindness and respect; I watched them, considered their actions, searched for the source of their benevolence. As babies entered my life (one after the other!), I studied the exemplary mothers and families around me and took note:

every child is the favorite– this is crucial. If parents compare or pit their children against each other, siblings begin to see each other as enemies.

focus on solutions, not blame

fighting isn’t allowed (unless it’s a really fab photo-op)

your good is my good– Kids are almost interchangeable in other people eyes. If your siblings succeed you’ll look exceptional too.

creativity spawns cooperation (and a lot of mess, but it’s worth it)

sometimes it’s better to quit the team– I know this sounds positively anti-American, but it’s worth it to walk away from coaches and teammates who are excessively aggressive. We have quite enough testosterone at home already, thank you.


patience– brotherly/sisterly love takes a long, long time.

Still, despite all our best efforts, some days are filled with petty fights, cruel words, slammed doors. I yell (and sometimes swear) and put everyone to bed early and angrily. And I want to run away (to Paris!), to give up on this impossible task of mothering…

But I don’t. Because kindness, as elusive at it may be, is a goal worth fighting for.

March 13, 2010
March 19, 2010



  1. katieo

    March 15, 2010

    Why do I cry at every single one of your posts?

    Oh right, because they’re awesome. I love your family.

  2. Denise

    March 16, 2010

    And you are a wonderful mother, just like your own.

  3. stace

    March 16, 2010

    you have done something right…which is why, as I have said, you are the first person who makes me think that having a large family might be fun.

    and then I go back to my fighting children. Mine are a work in progress.

  4. Selwyn

    March 16, 2010

    It’s windy as all hell here, and as such the midget armies are restless. I really identify with your post Michelle, particularly the escape to Paris dream!

    Oh, and I reckon Gabe & Wong are going to get on FAMOUSLY!

    L, SK

  5. Tracy

    March 16, 2010

    Being a mother is such hard work. Every day I make mistakes and Eloise keeps reminding me of that.

  6. Kerri

    March 16, 2010

    So I guess I just need to keep trying…


    I will.

    I think.

    But can I run away to Paris, too? Because that sounds like a lot of fun.

  7. Tasha

    March 16, 2010

    Thanks for your sweet comment! It made my day! And I’m glad you enjoy my blog because I keep borrowing your photos. Someday I’ll have pretty pictures of my own.

    Speaking of pretty pictures, these ones are so cute. It’s nice to see that the cries of “he’s breathing my air!” can settle into sweet, Christlike love. Like you wrote earlier, “when you are with a kind heart it just shines right through the camera lens.” I see that in the photos of your family.

    Thanks for your posts! They are always wonderful.

  8. Claudia

    March 16, 2010

    Amen, honey. Amen.

  9. jess

    March 16, 2010

    have i told you lately that you are my idol? i swear with just 2 little boys running around there are days that i think it will be a miracle if we all survive! i can’t imagine 6…
    i need to take note of these tips from such a gifted mother. really, you have many talents i’m sure, but the one that impresses me most is your gift of being a beautiful, wonderful mother.

  10. Travelin'Oma

    March 16, 2010

    You have a knack for capturing family life perfectly. I love visiting your home through your blog.

  11. Linn

    March 16, 2010

    Thank you Michelle.

  12. Liz

    March 16, 2010

    I am loving this post and thank you so much for it. You are such an amazing example.
    From, Liz, mom of 3 (young!) boys…

  13. Sue

    March 16, 2010

    I wholeheartedly agree. And there’s nothing better than “best friend” siblings. I know. I have four of them.


  14. Trainer Momma

    March 17, 2010

    Perfectly said. As usual.

  15. Rachelle

    March 17, 2010

    Thanks for keepin’ it real. Your blog is a gem. I love it.

  16. Jess

    March 17, 2010

    Thanks for this, Michelle! I really needed to hear it. My girls are so competitive at times and always trying to one up each other and other times they are best friends. It’s so frustrating to me and lately I’ve been trying to figure out what we, as their parents, have done to foster this. It makes me sad.

    Little Leo is the perfect third child b/c he adds a new dynamic and is the one we all get along with and everyone loves to help Leo.

    I giggled through those first pictures. I swear they look like Norman Rockwell prints. Love them!

  17. Heather

    March 17, 2010

    Thanks so much for this post! Not only is it what I really needed to read today, it is also what I have been looking for for years now! I think I will print out what you wrote and laminate it and keep it next to my bed.

  18. Jan Russell

    March 18, 2010

    Oh for crimineys sake, another big crybaby over here! I cannot take these posts, these pictures – oh your family is just too cute, even when they are bopping each other on the head. And somehow, even reading about how hard it can be to all get along – reading your blog ALWAYS makes me think I should have more kids…ACK!

  19. House of Estrogen

    March 19, 2010

    Love your thoughts on how to raise children who love each other. Mine seem to have a love/hate relationship, so I’m going to work on following some of your ideas.

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