Jacob and Cole would watch each other eat. You could have cut the tension and served it for dessert as far as I was concerned but the others would simply ignore it and mentally prepare to step in, because they would invariably resort to their fists to solve every last perceived insult. To me a fist is a symbol of desperation. It screams 'I've got nothing left. Let's go visceral.'. It screams 'I don't want to listen to you, I just want you to hurt.'.
Both Cole and Jacob are somewhere else now, but the violence stuck around.
I've thrown punches at the boys before. I'm not proud of it, in spite of the fact that it's akin to hitting a rock but I'm even more ashamed of how much they all fight with each other. The primaries (for lack of a better word) always seem to be the worst, as if it's some badge of honor to give a good friend a black eye and put him in his place. As if that one small, violent victory is going to hold. As if Bridget will be impressed with your ability to protect, defend and wound.
Bridget is not impressed, for the record. I've been begging them for years not to ruin my evening, my table, my perception of safety. I've been rearranging seating plans and screwing things to the floor and refusing to cook big dinners because eventually someone says the wrong thing or hell, with Cole and Jake it would be a look. Cole was so good at facial expression, Jake would read them and blow up. The laws of physics dictate that when someone over six feet sits close to a table and stands up abruptly they will pull a top heavy table right up with them. Chair goes backward, table goes forward, and Bridget goes upstairs.
I don't buy breakable dishes and I stopped putting candles on the table a long time ago. I feed people in shifts, trying to group the least combative ones with the most to decrease the odds and I have leveled ultimatums that should have kept the peace but didn't. I have distracted, deflected and orchestrated food fights instead of fist fights. I have spent hours on my hands and knees flicking shards of broken glass out of the cracks in the floorboards with a dull knife because nothing else would draw them out. I have mopped floors and wished for a crew with better manners.
I have accepted apologies and hugs for the mess. I have forgiven.
I have watched as they never change.
I have learned something new recently. Instead of feeding the children first so they can go and play or go to bed, depending on what time we want to have dinner, I set two extra places and the children eat with us now. It's been a nice surprise.
Moments that would have sent the table sailing into the air and all of my dishes crashing to the floor previously now only served to signify an abrupt subject change and a very long conversation about the merits of store-bought cookies versus home baked or something equally benign.
I don't actually believe the boys will change but it's been a nice reprieve to collect the dirty dishes from the table instead of the floor. Or so they tell me. I make them clean up now.
The boys, not the children.
HA. Payback that goes way back (with credit to PJ for the poetry.)