This past year it seems that Joey couldn't even be around Grace without losing his temper. Every thing Grace did or said made Joey upset and angry. It was pretty crazy to watch how constantly annoyed Joey always was with Grace. Watching the baby videos it was pretty heartbreaking to see such a huge shift.
I had brought it up to Joey many, many times. I asked him why she bothered him so much and the most he could come up with was that she just annoyed him so badly. I pointed out that his brothers do the same things that she does and it doesn't bother him nearly as much. Over and over again I would preach patience and kindness to Joey. I would tell him how it is hard for Grace to feel constantly left out of the boys' play and to be the youngest. I would tell Joey how much Grace looked up to him and how it would hurt her when he was mean. Joey would be upset with himself for how he acted and always felt badly about it. He would try for a while to do better but mostly he just tried avoiding her. Time and time again Joey would lose his temper with Grace over silly matters. It was ongoing and nasty. I was at my wits end trying to figure out how to improve their relationship.
After watching the baby videos I sat down and really thought about when the big shift occurred in the relationship. As I thought back the one time that constantly kept coming to mind was when Grace was around 2 years or 3 years old. Right around the time that Grace broke her leg. Oh my gosh! When Grace broke her leg!
It hit me like a bolt of lightening.
Joey harbored guilt and fear over Grace breaking her leg!
Of course as adults we all knew that it was an accident. Joey was on his bike and Grace went running out in front of him before he could stop. Joe ran into her and she broke her leg. That is pretty traumatic! And it didn't help that every time we had to explain what happened to people we would say that Joey and Grace collided when Joey was on his bike. That could definitely cause a child to harbor some bad feelings.
With my suspicions in hand I approached Joey. I asked him if perhaps he was always so mad at Grace because he still felt badly about the time she broke her leg. I explained that sometimes when we feel scared or guilty or sad it can come out as anger. I told him how we all knew it was an accident, and he definitely wasn't to blame, but maybe he blamed himself and it made him feel guilty and angry inside. I also told him that it had to be pretty traumatic and scary running into Grace. Feeling the bike hit her, and her going down, that had to be terrifying.
Joey nodded his head the whole time I was talking, his face very serious.
I told him over and over (as we had before) how no one blamed Joey for Grace's broken leg. I told him how people would often tell me that they felt as badly for Joey as they did for Grace because they knew that had to be difficult for him. I reminded him how Grace never blamed him and never held any bad feelings toward him about her broken leg.
Joe told me how scared he was when Grace broke her leg. He told me how badly he felt. He told me that when I took Grace to the hospital he thought dad was so mad the whole time. I explained that sometimes when someone is scared, as his dad was, it looks like anger but it isn't. I reminded him how many times his dad told Joey it wasn't his fault. Joey told me all the things he had been feeling about the accident that he never told me before. So many times after the accident I tried to get Joey to talk about it but he always shut down. He never wanted to talk about it before. Now it all just fell out of him.
When we finally cleared the air I was hopeful that unloading that burden would help Joey and Grace to have the close relationship that they once had before.
This was a few months ago and I'm happy to report that the difference has been night and day. Sure they still spat like normal siblings. Grace is still whiny and annoying at times and Joey is still quick tempered and preteen at times. However, they play together. Joey compliments Grace. Joey goes up to Grace at school and gives her a hug. He shares his toys with Grace and includes her in on the conversations and jokes.
Just this past weekend when we were up north Ben and Tommy decided to go out into the woods with Todd while Grace and Joey opted to stay back at the cabin with me. All day long Joey and Grace fished together.
Joey baited Grace's hook, cheered her on as she caught fish after fish, and got the fish off the hook for her as well.
He even went through his tackle box and gave her some of his first and favorite lures.
They decided to go fishing out on the paddle boat and Joey helped Grace get her life jacket on too.
They were out in the paddle boat for over an hour. They spent all day together. And they had fun. It was more than I'd ever expected.
Later on I told Joey how much it meant to me to see him teaching Grace and being patient and kind to her. He admitted that it was really fun and he had a great day with Grace.
Of course, later that evening they still fought and got on each other's nerves but that was just silly sibling stuff. It seems to me that Joey and Grace are back on the right track.
I really hope this is a fresh start. There is nothing more important than family and I so desperately want all of my kids to be close. I think we are headed in the right direction.