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Snitches Get Stitches… and Praise

With four kids, our house is eternally erupting in shouts of indignation, reports of infractions, and fights over absolutely nothing at all. Our kids seem to take joy in landing each other in trouble, which worries me most of the time — but comes in handy every so often.

Any parent of multiple kids will tell you: Certain combinations of kids gel, and others just don’t. We have four kids, and each combo is fairly predictable. For example, when kids 1 and 3, our two boys, are together, they tend to play football, destroy stuff, that kind of thing. When kids 2 and 4, our two girls, are together, they’re either best friends for hours or blow up within two minutes.

Kids 2 and 3 are undoubtedly best friends: They have their own language and understand each other perfectly. Laurie and I commonly refer to them as the “middles” or the “twins.”

But kids 3 and 4, who are both currently in elementary school, are by far the most petty, bickering combination of siblings. I’m sad to say it, but Jayden and Jasmine are mortal enemies. It’s not that they hate each other; they just take a concerning amount of delight in the other’s misery — whether after a video-game defeat or after getting (God forbid) slightly less cereal. They never miss an opportunity to spite each other, and if enough time passes without an argument, they’ll invent something to fight about.

Earlier today, Jasmine runs into my bedroom shouting, “Dad! Jayden got more macaroni and cheese, but he got a new spoon instead of using the one we already used!”

“And?” I say.

She pauses to consider her next move. She’d clearly expected me to explode on her brother for daring to dirty another spoon.

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“Go to timeout for tattling,” I say to her.

“But he used a new spoon!”

“I don’t care.”

She stomps off to her room, no doubt plotting her next step. She’ll think he won this round, and as soon as she’s out of timeout she’ll have her revenge planned out. This will inevitably lead to her getting sent back to timeout again for tattling, and the cycle continues.

Jayden is just as guilty of the same triviality. Really all four of the kids are. They’re all happy, almost eager, to rat out a sibling. Not so much for Laurie’s or my approval, but just to torment a sibling.

At times, I’m concerned the kids don’t have more loyalty toward each other. However, their petty tattling is incredibly helpful to Laurie and me. When Jayden ran into a parked car while riding his bike, we found out two seconds after his sibling walked in the door. When Vivi is using her phone after curfew, her siblings tell us. Recently, I saw a bunch of texts to and from Isaac’s phone from an unrecognized number. “Who’s this?” I ask him.

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“A friend,” he says.

“We’re gonna need more detail than that,” Laurie says.

“A friend from school.”

So we ask Vivi, who’s in middle school with him. Although they’re two years apart, their circles of friends seem to run together. “Who’s this friend?” we ask her.

Without thinking, Vivi tells us her name, when she and Isaac met, and what they had discussed at school a couple days ago.

“How do you know this?!” Isaac asks her.

Before she can answer, I interrupt. “Is she a good girl?”

“Sure,” Vivi says. “She’s nice. She’s on the honor roll and isn’t mean.”

We all got a good laugh out of this. Laurie and I told Vivi, “Good job.”

Even Isaac found it funny. He was still laughing when he said, “This is why I don’t tell y’all anything!”

“Buddy,” I said, “I don’t need you to tell me anything. We can just ask your sister!”

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