A Big Plate of Elephant


How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

My two oldest chickens are fighting the way brothers and sisters fight.

It’s exhausting.

Last week, we capped off Spring Break with a trip in our trailer, which is roughly one-twelfth the size of our house.

So here I am at the start of Holy Week, not feeling very holy. At one point, after whining “Gabe hit me” over and over, Kate asked why I was ignoring her.

It’s because I had lost the ability to form a sentence without the F-word in it.

I want to believe this is normal behavior, part of growing up, but I have some personal knowledge of brothers and sisters who grew up to not like each other much. I wish I knew the magical words to make them love each other.

“You better love your sister or I am going to make you the sorriest 9 year old in this campground!!!!”—just trust me that these are not the magical words.

So now we’re trying this:

Your job is to make your sister smile.

Not twist her up into a screaming banshee who tries to pull every hair out of your head over a fork.

Your job is to make your brother smile.

Not bribe your little sister to tell him that she doesn’t love him anymore.

Is it working?

If by working you mean I have now said it enough that if I died tomorrow they would put it on my tombstone in all caps and with twelve exclamation points? Then yes.

By any other measure, ish.

But there’s a thing we all have to remember. Building a family is like eating an elephant. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen in a year, or a decade. It takes a lifetime, maybe generations. It means that even when we’ve had enough, we have to stay at the table and help.

I hope that right now you are cruising through some yummy, easy piece of your elephant that pairs well with red wine.

But if your piece looks more like mine right now, bony and full of gristle, I want to remind you that you aren’t alone. EVERY FAMILY hits rough patches. ALL PARENTS look over at what’s left of the elephant and wonder how they’ll ever get it done, or why they chose to eat this elephant in the first place.It happens to EVERYONE.

The key is to keep eating.

7 thoughts on “A Big Plate of Elephant

  1. I can’t really relate, as I only had one child, and my own brother is 7 years older than me, so there wasn’t a lot of squabbling, plus as the baby, of course i RULED!! Funny thing tho, (since I’m on your site and not mine where I can’t share stuff like this)…my son and his wife fight like brother and sister and I kid you not, we’ve had to threaten to stop the car if she didn’t stop being mean to him. She was calling him names and that is NOT ACCEPTABLE. SIGH.

      1. No, she’s the middle one, but I believe she’s the favorite. You should hear them tease each other, two PhDs acting like little kids. She’s meaner, son doesn’t really like to fight. She calls him “only child syndrome” and “stupid bloody moron” and I refuse to let her get away with it – I told her around ME, she will treat my son with respect. One time when I was visiting back east, she was being mean and I threatened to leave. Sigh. He’s such a sweet boy, he really is. Gosh, they don’t even live together. She lives in SanFran and he teaches back east. LONG story…

  2. I am engraving “Your job is to make your _________ smile” on my children’s bedroom doors. No, I wouldn’t really. But, I might put it on the bathroom mirror. Brilliant! And, forming a sentence that is more holy than not? H.A.R.D. some days. One bite at a time, indeed. Awesome advice, friends!

  3. I so remember those times when they were little, and yet still deal with them, especially when the kids have been or are together too much. They will peck each other to death. Now as young teens they get along best when they “play”… go on long bike rides, dog walks, meet up with each others friends or walk to the store. Adventures now bond them…one bite at a time.

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