Sunday, July 11, 2010

Peace in the home.

Traditionally, in Judaism, Shalom Bayit refers to a marriage; to peace being kept between husband and wife. I wonder if it is the only interpretation? What about peace between siblings? And what is my role as a mother in keeping that peace?

I have four children ranging in age from nearly 11 to nearly 3. Generally speaking, these are very good children and I consider myself both lucky and blessed that they were given to me to nurture. They really do fill my heart with warmth and love and most of the time they make me very happy. But then, they fight.

Of course, children are children and fighting is part of learning one's way in the family. Problem solving is an important skill for children to have and once they have mastered this skill, they will always be grateful for it. But, when is it a parent's duty to intervene in a sibling fight?

Let me explain something. I am using the term "fight" in a more generic sense. To say that my children are having disagreements is not strong enough, yet most times, there is no real physical contact and so the term "fight" might be deemed too strong. Of course I would be quick to intervene if physical harm were imminent. Even I know that kind of fighting has taken it too far. (Not to mention the numerous examples in the Torah of how physical fighting can lead to extremely bad things.)

So, back to my children. How long should I let the children engage in their "fight" before I step in? I can't solve their problems for them, and they need to learn to work and play together. Yet, there are times when all I want is peace in the home. Complete and total peace. I listen to their language and I cringe. The mean things that come out of their mouths makes me sad. I thought, or rather I hoped, that I had taught them to be more respectful of each other and of themselves.When and where did they learn to be this nasty?

I am not perfect. I don't even think I am great. But, I treat my children with respect and show them love in every situation. Is it just normal for siblings to go through these stages of fighting and could it be a sign of maturity when the ten year old gets into a verbal argument with the two-year old? Is it normal for them to scream at each other and shoot words full of venom at one another? Is it all just a part of growing up?

Each of my children has a distinct personality and I can see each of them trying to find their way in the family. I have always tried to encourage them to be the best that they can be, not making life with siblings into a competition. But I have to wonder, how much does the concept of peace in the home fall squarely on my shoulders? Even if the argument is theirs, is it not my responsibility to make sure that everyone under the roof of my home is happy? Is it unrealistic to expect happiness one hundred percent of the time? And is it unrealistic to assume that lack of happiness is my fault?

I don't have the answers to these questions, nor do I know where to find the answers. I know that my role is to be there for each of my children and that is what I plan to do. As for their fighting, and keeping the peace in my home, I suppose we will have to let that play itself out.

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