Well, this was a single parenting first.
The boys were playing with two of the girls in the neighborhood, jumping on the trampoline, shooting hoops, doing the neighborhood do. I keep an ear to the ground when they are playing, and I pray for their wisdom and their safety. I know that one day 'across the street' may be 'across the world', and the life lessons of today will matter then.
So I let them play and I let life and relationships unfold, and then I'm here. Just in case they need some extra wisdom in their corner. Or in this case, fierce protection.
They tumbled in the door, tripping over one another in a race to be the first to get to me, to be the first to tell his side of the story.
They had gotten in a fight - with each other. Throws and blows.
"He beat me up, Mommy."
"Well, he punched me in the eye."
"That's only because I was afraid."
Yes, lovey. That's called protecting yourself.
And then another detail emerged: the little girls had dared Tuck to beat up his brother.
Stop right there. This is not going down this way.
I had several issues before me: brother violence, family loyalty, bullying, peer pressure, and setting boundaries in the new territory. I hardly knew where to begin.
I set them on the couch in front of me. I explained that in 'our family'- a phrase I used often, since they may very well see something different happen somewhere else, but 'in our family' this is true - we do not ever punch, hit, or fight. That's not how we solve anything.
My heart broke in front of them, the very idea of one brother turning against the other.
We talked about the best friend God gives you in a sibling.
"He's my BFF? I didn't even know that."
We talked about choosing a brother, always.
"Yeah, even if I do mean things to him, he should still be on my side."
"Well, you shouldn't do mean things to him. That's the nature of being on his side."
And then I knew - I knew that I knew - I needed to wage the raging waters of crossing the street, ring the doorbell, and have a conversation on my own.
I do not love conflict. I do not love confrontation. But I do love my boys. And hell has no fury like a momma bear scorned. These little girls threw my boys into a dog fight, just to see what would happen. We may be new to the neighborhood, but let me tell you: this is not how it's going to happen around here.
Tuck rang the doorbell. We waited. We heard scrambling inside. "Dad! It's the neighbors! It's Tucker and Tyler's Mom!" Yeah, it is.
Dad came to the door, and I forged into new territory.
"Hi, my name is Tricia, and it's so good to meet you again. Can you help me with your name? Oh, yes. I remember. Thank you. I just wanted to check in with you tonight. My boys were fighting with each other tonight, and I'm dealing with that issue inside our home, since punching and hitting is not allowed. But they both tell me that your girls dared them to do it, encouraged them to punch one another. So I just wanted to talk with you to see if that's the story you've heard as well."
He called both girls to the front door. They both confessed.
Yes, we did that.
We don't know why.
We know it's wrong.
We won't anymore.
He sent them to their rooms, grounding them for a day. But as they walked up the stairs, I said, "Girls, we love you both, and we love having you over to play. But I need you to know, in our family, there is no punching allowed. In fact, if you ever see my children hitting or fighting or punching each other, you have my permission to come straight to me. Tell me right away, because they are breaking the rules. So please do not ever, ever encourage or dare them to fight against one another or anyone else. I would love to have you over again soon."
And I would. In fact, yesterday, those were two of the neighborhood crew whom I paid with chocolate to carry my desk to my writing studio. (Yep. Not above it.)
The girls went to their rooms, and the dad apologized sincerely. He explained that he had worked all day, his wife was traveling, and sometimes he just felt like a single parent. And at the end of the day, sometimes he's just too tired to keep track.
Yes, I understand how that feels.
We shook hands, made eye contact, and I left every ounce of grace behind before we left for our home.
Girls, we love you. Don't ever do that again.
It was an epic night. Tuck learned about the mighty force of peer pressure and how it works. They both learned about family loyalty. Tyler learned that he is not alone, that although he is the youngest in the neighborhood, and while he is not 'a momma's boy,' he is not alone.
"Who has a fierce mom, Tyler?"
"You sure do."
"And mommy? You do too."
It's very true, Tyler. I do too. I learned from the best.
Dear Neighbhoord Bullies, there's a new sheriff in town. She has snacks in her pantry, chocolate in her purse, and fun in her home. But she has boundaries and rules and a firm voice.
We love you, and you are welcome here. Provided you follow the rules.
I put the boys to bed. And then I fell into my own.
Epic night around here.