Our family has many different modes. During the school year it's just Echo around here on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. Then Xi arrives on Wednesdays and we have two kids. During the summer we have Bella in three-week chunks, so summer Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays we have two kids but they are Bella and Echo. Then when Xi arrives we have three kids the rest of the week. If you didn't follow that don't worry, you don't have to, we'll remember the schedule. But what I hope you got out of that is that the dynamics around this joint shift with the tides.
With each child/age/day of the week combination there is a different vibe to the interactions. And lately the just-Echo-and-Xi combo is a bit tense. Echo is a little out of balance these days, a little demanding, a little shrieky, a little bit lame as a little sister. I've been rooting out the right homeopathic remedy that will take the edge off her edginess but until I hit the mark there's some egg shell walking around these parts. Xi takes the brunt of the shrieking for sure. Simple toy squabbles become ear-piercing outbursts in which we all try to tame the Echo-tiger. Well, actually Nathan and I try to tame the tiger with empathy and information, but Xi seems to be jabbing a chair at that wild lion.
What I mean is that after Echo loses her shit and hits Xi and loses all cool about the little pink balloon and I have intervened to keep Xi safe and Echo has slunk off to play by herself for a bit on the couch, Xi doesn't let things lie. She doesn't wipe her brow and say PHEW! and enjoy those moments of peace. Instead she goes over to the couch. She goes over to the motherf-ing couch. She goes over to the couch and squeezes right into the line of fire again. She chooses the couch as her next hang out venue and Echo starts her territorial growling once again and Xi chooses to take a stance declaring that the "couch is for everyone" and she just happens to want to sit in that exact spot.
Did you get that? Instead of enjoying the peace and coloring or something, she starts shit right up again.
After two solid days of this exact scenario I absolutely lost my shit and started asking "questions". I put that in quotes because they weren't questions exactly they were more like: WHAT THE FUCK? WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THAT??? WHY DO YOU KEEP GOING RIGHT BACK INTO IT AND STARTING THE FIGHT RIGHT BACK UP AGAIN JUST WHEN IT WAS CALMING DOWN? WHY, AFTER SHE HAS TREATED YOU LIKE SHIT, DO YOU WANT TO CHOOSE THE EXACT SAME PHYSICAL SPACE WITH HER AGAIN? In my mind I have thrown in the towel. The child is acting insane and I am doing my best pulling-my-hair-out sitcom character routine. And Xi is looking at me with a guarded stare, which stirs me to further rage. I just keep asking/yelling WHY? She says I don't know. And I feel even more mad about that answer and I realize that I really do want to know. I want to know why.
But she can't tell me why because I'm really only asking rhetorical questions. I'm asking the kind of questions that she can only answer with: "You're right, only an insane person would do that. I must be insane." And she wasn't going to say that so I was shit out of luck.
Finally I took a deep breath and said: "I love you. Any answers you have about this will help me a whole lot." And finally with a big rushing gush she said that she goes near Echo and contemptuous issues repeatedly so that I will notice. She wanted me to see how poorly Echo was behaving. If she incited Echo to rage and hit then I would notice and care.
Sigh of relief.
Even though I was sad that Xi didn't perceive my actions as "doing anything" and even though she felt compelled to take drastic measures to grab my awareness, I felt so relieved that we were working with something more manageable, something comprehensible. I gathered her up. I can pay closer attention. I can commiserate with her on Echo's undesirable mood. I can easily let her know that I see her. I see her I see her I see her. She matters.
That's easy. But I'm not going to get to that crux, that beautiful crux of the matter, with rhetorical questions.