Another excerpt from my book in progress: A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. Enjoy….
On a recent visit with my grandchildren, I noticed a pattern of behavior that is apparently passed from generation to generation like the balding gene. My oldest granddaughter had been given a chore to do, as was her younger brother, and she spent more time policing him than folding the clothes.
Watching the push-pull between them, I was instantly transported back to when the same kinds of scenes played out between my children.
If I told Anjanette to empty the dishwasher, she would feel this compulsion to hound David to take care of the trash. Then if I’d tell David to clean up his room, he’d waste more time trying to recruit Michael’s help than he actually spent in his room.
And I can remember being so frustrated when I’d tell one kid to do something, then hear him in the other room telling the other kids, “Mom told us to clean up the den.”
Usually I tried to rise above some infantile level of response, but sometimes their behavior was contagious. I’d run into the den screaming, “I did not!”
Another common occurrence was for one of the kids to rush through his job and instead of making sure it was done right, he’d run to check on the other guy. Then he’d come to me with a smug expression to report that so-and-so didn’t clean the bathroom right. He was crushed when my response was, “Well, you didn’t do such a hot job in the kitchen, either.”
I’m sure he expected nothing less than the total annihilation of that brother.
According to psychologists, this behavior is very normal among family members, and it does carry some fancy label. But we mothers recognize it as “pecking order.” If you pay real close attention, it goes from older to younger much more often than from younger to older. And I’ve always felt a little sorry for the youngest in a family. There’s no one left to “peck” on.
My grandson solved that problem by ordering the dog around for a while. It did seem to give him some satisfaction to “make” Arthur pick up his ball, and I wonder what kids do if they don’t have a pet?