Dancing with the Stars Saved My Life

Written by Emily

If you peek in our windows or stand on the sidewalk outside our house, you’d notice that our day often starts with “she started it!” Then our boy goes to school. When he comes home, there’s a tussle, a scream and then tears. Dinner comes and with it some “he started it!” The day ends with two fights, three wrestling matches turned MMA, some crying and then it’s good-night. Rewind. Repeat. Rewind. Repeat. Add weekends, subtract school and multiply by my own screaming.

Jealous anyone?

The days have been long. By the time the kids are tucked in, I feel like I’ve run a marathon. Well, what I imagine that might feel like, and to me, it feels like physical and emotional torture.

Apparently children don’t respond to reason or their mother’s screaming. Mine don’t, at least. I could laugh and say, “Oh, they’re so spirited!” But the truth is, my obituary is writing itself: Death by Sibling Rivalry.

I’ve researched how to remedy this situation. Nothing I’ve tried sticks. They circle each other like sharks, these two. They rub against each other until a drop of blood seasons the water, and then they attack. All positive reinforcement is forgotten.

I did purchase this*:



And this cage*:



Not enough.

Just when I resigned myself to being nothing more than shark bait, the strangest thing happened. Dancing with the Stars waltzed in and saved my life. Let me say that again, Dancing with the Stars saved my life. I don’t even watch the show, but my wily two caught sight of these dancers, looked at each other and saw a challenge. For days, rather than sizing each other up for battle, they practiced “dancing.” Chloe became a choreographer, an expert in all things dance. Without any hesitation, she instructed Noah to lift her into the air again and again. Are you picturing the final move in Dirty Dancing where Patrick Swayze raises Jennifer Grey above his head? Good because so was Chloe (and she’s never seen Dirty Dancing).

While Noah was at school, Chloe talked incessantly about their dance moves. She outlined a performance and asked for a real audience (her parents, her grandparents, a red-headed baby). She chose their outfits; she watched the clock. She waited with wiggly puppy excitement for her big brother–er, her dancing partner–to get home. And when he did, they danced

and giggled

and laughed

and talked

and pretended.

And I stopped clenching my teeth.

Noah basked in Chloe’s suggestion that he was “super strong” and continued to humor her–even if it meant he had to wear a dress shirt, a tie and church pants. He drew the line at the glittery make-up Chloe wanted him to try, but she didn’t press the issue since she sparkled enough for both of them in her gold sequined gown.

On the night of the “show”, I was certain Noah would forfeit, seeing Chloe’s interest and enthusiasm as a weakness–the spot of blood in the water.

I was wrong.

While the audience waited for the dancers’ entrance–lights dimmed, music playing, Chloe dissolved into tears. It was too much; the pressure was too great. Tears streamed down her face and made pathways through the glitter and shine until she was red-faced and puffy–a picture of prom-night disappointment.

No consoling or encouragement from the audience made a difference. She was scared. Until Noah turned to her and said, “Come on, Chlo. I’ll be your prince.” My heart swelled and broke into a million pieces.

Just for a minute while she mustered enough courage to spin and bounce and jump into his arms, he was her prince. He wanted to be, and she let him.

He even lifted her feet off the ground.

The next day, they were back at it (and they still are), and by “it” I mean sparring not dancing. I’m glad I didn’t get rid of my chain mail suit. I still clench my jaw, but something’s changed. Since my dancers took the stage, glimpses of their friendship bubble to the surface without my prompting or intervention. I notice them giving in to the other’s imagination.

I catch them working together,

paintingplaying together,

playgroundbuddiesbeing together.


And my hope is restored.

*click images for links and credit.

Categories: Emily, Family

Tags: , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. This is such a lovely post! My two are constantly at each others throats but sometimes just sometimes they actually play nicely!! 😀

  2. Hi Emily–

    Oh, how I remember those days….. oh how I loved my tiny children, which made it all the more baffling to me during the times when they didn’t seem to share the same love for each other. There is a lot to it, but you have hit on some key issues– or mistakes– that we parents make ( I made them, for sure) when we respond to sibling squabbles or, frankly, any conflict with our small children.

    1. Children don’t respond to reason. Nope. They don’t. They respond to action. And the longer you reason with them, the longer you put off doing what you need to do, which is ACT.
    2. They don’t respond to screaming either (or, in fact, most of what we say). They don’t hear with their ears– they hear with their bodies. If you want your child to do/not do something, you must act.

    I love the images of your children dancing together and finding each other’s “shine,” but you don’t have to suffer helplessly through the moments in between. There will be times when they don’t appreciate each other, when they don’t like each other, and they still have to learn to live together with respect.

    • Thank you so much for the thoughtful response. You are so right that they have to live together with respect. Getting to that place is a challenge. I see we’re getting closer each day, and I’m trying to focus on the successes. Thank you.

  3. It’s suprising how just one good day/good deed (from children or even from the hubby) can clean the tarnished slate… Oh and that feeling you mention “My heart swelled and broke into a million pieces.” My goodness, I know that feeling, it’s so fleeting but it leaves its mark, it’s like a reset button, faith in ouselves as moms is restored from witnessing that moment of kindness in our children…lovely 🙂 thanks for such a heartwarming post, Alexandra

    • You are so right..faith in ourselves as moms is restored. Yes! I love that. There are so many times I think, “What am I doing wrong?” And then there are these moments, the reset button. Thank you for your insight!

  4. Love! When they were younger there was a LOT of fighting and quarreling over what’s “mine”. Now they are older–with 1 moved out and the other about to graduate–I treasure the occasional moments when I hear them laughing together.

  5. This is great! I just love the way they love each other. You are blessed. Kids are not perfect, that’s what makes them amazing. Love them. : )

  6. Yet again, my friend, you use words to so brilliantly paint a picture of the beauty you are getting to see. We have that same battle and those victories here. So glad you are seeing lingering its of that bliss.

  7. My two biggest girls are 14 months apart. They terrorise and tease and manipulate and fight CONSTANTLY. The soundtrack of my life is tears and accusations… and then I go to check on them at night and find them snuggled together wrapped in each others arms. There is hope! Thanks for a lovely post and pictures.

  8. My husband would have two words for that last picture: wedding slideshow! I’m so glad that you got a few days of reprieve. May I ask what genre of dance they chose? 😉

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