Hugging It Out

My two oldest, Tristan and Norah, were cleaning on Saturday when Tristan threw a plastic dustpan at his sister, striking her in the leg, and causing her to scream as though she’d been shot with a bullet.

To say that the two were irritated about cleaning is an understatement. They acted like I’d placed them in a prison work program of hard labor, when in fact I’d just asked them to tidy up the living room and dining room.

In my defense, 90% of the mess was their own crap. I told them this, which made me even more heartless, somehow. Halfway, the cleaning turned into a turf war, Tristan claiming the dining room, and Norah claiming the living room, and anything crossing an imaginary line between the two resulted in fire and fury.

When Mel and I decided to have a second child, it was under the foolish notion that it would give Tristan someone to play with. What it did, in fact, was give him someone to throw a dustpan at. Please keep in mind that both parties were guilty. Norah got angry at Tristan for placing the dustpan on her side of things, so she threw it on his side…

You get the idea.

Anyone with siblings has been here. I remember my older brother throwing a garbage can at our sister’s face. It was all very WWE, and I’m confident it was over something just as stupid.

I sent them both to their rooms to diffuse the situation. Then I sat in the half cleaned living room wondering what to do. I think all parents feel lost in these situations. I know my parents did. I’m sure their parents did, too. And there I was, hoping I could answer the question of sibling rivalry, as if it wasn’t as complicated as cold fusion.

“If I apologize, can I come out?” Tristan said. Norah said the same. They knew me too well. Demanding that they give a hollow apology was my default in situations like this, so I decided to up the ante.

“You also need to hug each other. I want you both to apologize, and then hug each other because you are brother and sister, and you love each other.”


“I’m waiting,” I said. “We are going to hug this argument out, right now.”

I’m not sure how long they waited, but it felt like eternity. During that time, I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time they hugged.

Tristan offered to give up screen time. Norah offered to give up having friends over.

“The fact that you two won’t hug makes me very sad,” I said.

Eventually, they entered the hallway. They apologized. Then they embraced.

I’m not sure what the ramifications are of making your children apologize and then hug. Perhaps I’ve given one of them attachment issues, or made them both hate each other until the other is dead, and at the funeral, they will give a long speech about how I made them hug, and that’s why they murdered their sibling.

What I do know, however, is that as they hugged, they giggled. Norah let out a sigh of relief. Tristan did shortly after.

It all felt like this embrace had been a long time coming.

Then they went back to cleaning as if nothing happened. And once the house was clean, they went into the front yard and played like old friends.

I doubt that this whole hug thing solved all of their problems, but I will admit, it was nice to see that Tristan finally had someone to play with.


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