Sibling Revelry

It’s cold tonight! All five boys and Mary are outside bundled up in sweatshirts and shooting crabapples and broken ping pong balls out of Ben’s potato cannon. They use Old Spice spray deodorant as an accelerant, light it and shoot things a hundred feet in the air. The boys come in every two minutes to tell me of each new development and I try to look interested.

I asked Ben why he had time to play with the potato gun, but when I asked him to vacuum the basement he whined and fussed that he had so much homework and would never be able to get it all done(I made him vacuum anyway). Ben claims that shooting the cannon is a destressor– whatever.

OK, I just went outside to watch and it is amazingly cool. The Old Spice creates a blue flame which is far superior to the hairspray they used previously. A few years ago when the boys wanted to make potato cannons I took them all to Home Depot to get the supplies. I didn’t think much of it until the other boys in the ‘hood expressed shock that any mother would condone potato cannons. Guess I’m pretty foolhardy.

Erik and I took Ben Wilkinson to dinner Friday night. Ben has been living in China with his brother Joe for the past two years. They spent the first year teaching English and the second year learning Chinese. He told us that China is a place you can’t even imagine and that even after living there for two years he still knows very little about it! I told him that sounded a lot like parenthood– you learn a lot really fast but even after several years you still feel inexperienced(oh YUCK! Mary just came in with dog poop all over her feet!).

Ben said the policy that would hurt China the most in the future is the one child per family law. As a result the entire society is made up of only children. Now there’s nothing wrong with being an only child, but siblings teach each other many, many social skills– the primary one being “the world does not revolve around you!” Ben pointed out that in America an only child will generally learn “sibling” social skills from his friends. But in China, everyone is an only child– spoiled by parents and grandparents– and those skills are lost. He said it’s amazing to see the social immaturity of otherwise well-educated, hard-working, intelligent young adults. Temper tantrums are common; forgetting a friends birthday is unforgivable.

So if nothing else my children are a gift to each other. Their “Lord of the Flies” social structure frightens me occasionally but even potato cannons teach them some skills(please don’t ask me what!).

September 26, 2007