Don't poke the bear.
It was an overcast weekend afternoon, during our summer vacation. My parents were grocery shopping and figured that since my brother was 16, I was fifteen and my sister was 12, the three of us had enough combined maturity to leave alone for the length of time it takes to grocery shop for a family of five.
You know what happens when the responsible adults leave a 16-year-old boy alone with the lone television set, a SEGA system, a video game addiction and a pathological need to drive his younger sisters insane?
Nothing good, I can assure you.
So there he was, Stretch, the over-grown boy who thought that because he towered over every living thing in sight, he could hog the TV.
And there I was, the much shorter yet way bossier younger sister who refused to be bullied.
My sister was the only intelligent child around. She hid in her bedroom to avoid the bloodshed.
It all went down something like this.
"Stretch, can you get off the tv now? You've been playing video games all morning and I want to watch a movie."
"No. Go away."
"No, you go away. I want to watch tv."
He ignores me as the sounds of an annoying 1990's video game taunt me in the background.
"Stretch. Get. Off. The. Television. Please."
Pew pew! Pop! Bam! Cutesy music and complete silence from my suddenly deaf big brother.
So I did the only thing I dared to do. I stood in front of him, blocking his view of the television.
"Stretch. I WANT TO WATCH TEEVEE NOOOOW."
My brother paused the game, looked up and growled in a low voice, "Tanis, you'd better move. Now."
The fifteen year old me was not so different from the modern day me, in that I don't respond well to being told what to do. Also, the fifteen year old me was way dumber than I currently am now.
"No. GET OFF THE DAMN GAME STRETCH OR I'M TELLING MOM."
"I'm warning you Tanis, MOVE." His voice was deadly serious.
So I moved.
I dove for the console box and tried to turn the entire thing off. My downfall was (besides being dumber than a stump and more stubborn) I miscalculated how quick my brother's reflexes were.
Quicker than a cat on a hot tin roof, darn it.
I can't remember with crystal clarity what exactly happened next but I know I did a lot of screeching at high volume in his face, he told me to back off, and I told him where he could stick his head.
The next thing I knew, a river of red ran out my nostrils and I was running out the door of our house, my brother hot on my heels. I was yelling for help and he was screaming he was going to pummel me.
Lucky for me, our parents happened to arrive home JUST AT THAT MOMENT. The rest is, as they say, history. But I never poked that bear again.
Fast forward 21 years.
We have one television in our house. One. It's located in our family room and it's communal property.
Yesterday, as I was online, reading blogs and such, I heard, "Fric, stop it."
Fric replied to her younger brother in a sing song voice, "What? I'm not doing anything!"
"Fric! Stop it!" Frac barked again.
Being the dutiful mother I am, I asked what was going on. Suddenly all traces of annoyance was gone from both of them as they answered, "Nothing! Just playing video games."
"Well stop fighting or I'm shutting it off."
The peace lasted for about, oh, two seconds. They were playing split screen, a first person shooting game and somebody was deliberately shooting her brother. Even though they were on the same team.
I have no idea where that girl child of mine gets it. I swear.
My boy child was at his wits end. Because apparently, gaming online is a serious business when your mom only lets you play for an hour on a sunny day. Who wants to waste it constantly getting blown up by your big sister?
Before I knew it, there was more shouting, more arguing and I was suddenly having flash backs of my brother's fist meeting the tip of my nose.
Someone was poking the damn bear.
"That's it, you two. Stand up. Get over here," I shouted over top of their yelling and scowled at them with my meanest mommy face ever.
"I've had enough of this. If you want to act like children, I'll treat you like kids," I threatened. They glowered at me and then at each other.
The problem with disciplining is you need to have a plan of action. I didn't actually have any plan in mind, short of kicking them outside. But I figured with my luck, they'd just take it outside and continue their war there. I needed something and I needed it right now before any more bears were poked.
So I made an impromptu decision and I did what I used to do when they fought when they were little. When they actually were kids, not these grown up wannabes, straddling the line of adulthood.
I made them hug it out.
And I documented it.
Because they are still kids. But they won't be for much longer. And darn if some Sunday morning I'm not going to be wishing the two of them were squabbling over video games in my living room once more.
Which brings us here. A little photographic series I like to call the Evolution of a Hug. (Also known as DONT POKE THE BEAR.)
First off we have smugness and annoyance. I can barely tolerate the waves of "I want to rip off your limbs and beat you with them" that one of them is projecting. I choose to ignore said waves and pretend everything is sunshine and unicorn farts.
Unfortunately, the older sibling is unable to avoid said waves of anger and responds back by very maturely calling her younger brother a jerk. If this happens with your children the best thing to do is to fine them a dollar for cussing and remind them that Momma ain't messing around. Be sure to use your sweetest voice though. It confuses the honey badgers and puts them on high alert.
And we have contact. Hug therapy begins. Vomiting is threatened but no actual gagging occurs.
A little squeezing is to be expected. The oversized irritated sibling may want to assert his dominance by pretending he's a python and the annoying older sibling may want to fake actual innocence. Do not interfere. It's all part of the process. Just remind them, very sweetly, you have all damn day and you don't mind waiting until they can play nice.
Eventually, I promise, they'll crack. And they'll actually hug one another nicely and tell each other they love one another while making promises that they'll stop trying to cyber kill one another.
Hug therapy. Every gamer needs it occasionally. Bears do too.