Touch of Spice

All's fair in love and sisterhood

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My husband is one of three boys. To him, fighting is a quick punch timed just as mom enters the room, so you think there's no chance for retaliation, which is not true as a swift kick under the kitchen table soon reveals.

But then it's over.

I'm one of three girls. I know better.

Girls aren't nearly as straightforward as boys are, and their battles are rarely over. Girls (now I'm generalizing here based on my own experiences and mean no offense to those with longer tempers and shorter memories than my own) can be underhanded, devious, petty and get back at you for something you've forgot you've done, but that she didn't.

I think I know what I'm in for. My husband has no clue.

There's love between my two girls -- I think.

I sat on the floor with Katie in my lap and Nikki trying to climb on. Katie, in the habit of screaming when Nikki considers coming her direction, got set to let loose.

So I made it fun (for my sake) and talked Katie into thinking it would be cute to have Nikki sit in her lap.

It worked, a little too well as usual.

Nikki wasn't really in the mood to sit, so she kept getting up. Katie would said "Mikki, lap," and pat her stomach.

(Yes, she's progressing. She's gone from Ikky, to Wikki to Mikki. We're getting closer.)

Anyway, when that didn't work, she'd pull Nikki down (by the neck) and hold her there.

That, surprisingly, didn't go over well.

But the concept was one of the sweetest things about their relationship.

You see, Katie, being older, feels she should be in charge. She demonstrates this mostly in the bathtub by trying to force Nikki to sit down, either by pressure to her head or pulling her arm.

The problem with Katie's theory is that little Nikki, despite being the youngest, is the house bully.

Don't misinterpret -- she's also the house sweetheart and cuddle bug, but where Katie's concerned Nikki can take what Katie dishes out and send it back in like style.

Nikki's got a grip and that alone sends Katie into fits. She was used to the placid baby who would take a broken car in exchange for the song-singing Barney.

Now, Nikki doesn't like to exchange anything but a smack in the face every now and then.

Katie gives it back sometimes, usually in a maternal way.

It's really not fair because when Katie makes Nikki cry, I make Katie says she's sorry and give Nikki a kiss. Nikki is too young to return the apology.

So I'm teaching Nikki "nice." I take her hand and rub it over my head like she's petting a dog and say "nice" over and over.

She thinks that's pretty amusing and the good thing is that Katie enjoys it, too.

The bad thing is that it's usually short-lived and is followed by a slap.

That's our fault. The slap progressed from a lesson on patting your mouth while humming to interrupt the flow. She first tried it on herself and then me. She did it a little to hard and I yelped and fake-fell over backwards.

She thought it was such fun, she keeps doing it.

You think I would have learned. We went through the same thing with Katie.

Pretending that pat is really painful is fun when it's not, but as they grow, you don't have to pretend and that's not as fun.

Even less fun is breaking them of it.

An indication of the beginnings of years of sibling altercations is that Nikki knows exactly how to push Katie's buttons.

She knows what toys she can touch to make Katie have a conniption. She knows that splashing Katie in the bathtub will cause crying and that turning the television off right in the middle of Barney will result in screaming.

She's also aware that she needs only to crawl near Katie to precipitate a fit.

Taking Katie's blanket -- that's a fun one.

It's truly amusing now, but looking down the road 10 or 12 years, I can see a nervous breakdown coming -- mine, not Katie's.

I mean, I lived through the altercations. I tried to put my sister's head through the sliding glass door while she tried to brain me on a rock. I laid on the floor with ketchup on my stomach and a knife beside me to hear her scream and I took her with me when I broke rules so she couldn't tattle.

But I experienced that as a kid and I'm facing the parent's side of the coin now.

With the boys, I threaten to make them stand in the corner and kiss when they fight -- that stops them pretty quick, but that threat just doesn't have the same impact on girls.

I can't count the people who told me having two children 14 months apart was good planning (planning?) because they would be the best of friends and always have someone to play with.

Fight, play what's the difference?

Screaming, weeping, yelling, pulling, pushing, pleading.

Those are the differences.

And when I'm done doing all that, I have to deal with the girls.

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