I listen to them argue over a toy, cry crocodile tears over a sibling-bumped head, complain over a real or perceived injustice. I nod my head in mock seriousness, hand out hugs and kisses by the dozen to the injured party of the moment, remind them all of the "do unto others" verse, sing the "love, joy, peace and patience" ditty to remind of the fruit God wants to see in them.
Some days, the whining and bickering is so intense, I refuse to enter the fray, hold my hands out defensively and say I'm Switzerland. "Work it out yourselves or you can't play together."
They go away, offer apologies and forgiveness for the short-term. But they always come back with the next offense and the next...and the next, until I follow through with my warning.
"You can't play with Emerson anymore. Nope. No. Go away from him. If he's on the playground, you have to be somewhere else. And you--you can't play with Wyatt anymore either. Go play by yourself in another room."
Edict issued, I intentionally turn my back on them all, ignore their complaints, and return to whatever task kept being interrupted with battle cries, confident that there is no way my words will be obeyed.
It won't take long. A minute. Maybe five. If I peek out the window, listen down the hall, I can see them try valiantly not to play with each other, do their own thing. But it never fails.
Eyes watching over his shoulder to see if mommy is watching, one will sneak over to where the other ones are playing. The others don't turn him away but join in sneaking glances down the hall, at the side door, too. In minutes, all are happily unified in their play. Now, that they're doing what mommy has told them not to do, nobody can come tattletale. So, they share where they would usually snatch and grab. They comfort where they would usually annoy. And should mommy open that door or round the corner of the hall? They are prepared to instantly split three-ways, pretend to be doing individual tasks that they're not.Sibling rivalry turned into sibling unity. Although it's rooted in joint defiance (them versus me), the end result is cooperative working together, so many fun giggles reaching the treetops....such joy.