Survival of the fittest – welcome to the school holidays

Here we go, two weeks of unadulterated bliss.  No get ups, no lunches, no routine.  I love school holidays … after the initial 24 hours that is.

The first 24 hours of any weekend or holiday in our house is full of bickering and sniping between my 8, 11 and 12-year-old.  There are the constant put downs, ganging up on each other and sly accusations.  They will then move on to stomping around not knowing where to go, what to do, or who to be with.

I have put this down to them purely needing to reestablish the pecking order.  As in any species, the pecking order is sacred and there is a constant challenge for the top position.  For my children, a return to the family structure at weekends and holidays sees a return to the sibling hierarchy.  Whilst they are at school they know their place amongst their friends, peers and other students.  At school, my 11-year-old is Year 6 and thus ‘top’ of the school yet within the family hierarchy he has to readjust at weekends and in the holidays to being second to the first-born who has always asserted herself as top dog because of her age.  My youngest in Year 3 is one of the eldest amongst his peers being September baby, has a lot of confidence being the third born and also one of the tallest.  At home he has to accept that as the youngest, he is at the bottom of the pecking order which can be a huge adjustment for him.  My daughter, the eldest, is now adept at subtly ‘pecking’ the boys to make sure they know their place; whilst she is in the house, she is alpha sibling no question about it.  Sometimes, this tussle to re-establish their place can only last a couple of hours and they are able to co-exist together again.  However, on other occasions, it can take 48 even 72 hours for the struggle to result in the acceptable hierarchical outcome.  If this is over a weekend, then I am happily waving them off to school on a Monday.

I am intrigued by why children behave as they do.  The conflict at the start of weekends or holidays could just be because of their irritability and tiredness but for me that’s far too simple an explanation.  In my mind’s eye, my children are taking part in a battle of ‘survival of the fittest’ every time they break from school.  Dramatic yes, but makes dealing with these conflicts and battles far more meaningful and interesting!

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