One Is the ... Happiest Number?

Over the weekend my husband took our older son to Oregon for his first guys-only camping trip. Three generations of family now get together each summer to do this, and Riley did great. He wore his own backpack on the hike in, he helped fish and set up camp, he got to spend a couple days playing with his cousin and getting spectacularly filthy from head to toe. It sounds like he had an amazing time.

Meanwhile, back at home, I hung out with my 2.5-year-old. I figured it would be a little rough being on our own for a few days, since he can be such a challenge and is prone to nonstop tempter tantrums and has to be watched constantly — but guess what? He was like a TOTALLY DIFFERENT KID.

The never-ending shriekfests? Gone. The inability to play on his own for five consecutive seconds without getting in a fight over some stupid toy? Gone. The tears, the migraine-inducing howls of rage, the constant self-inflicted injuries as he tries to copy everything his more sure-footed brother does? Gone, gone, gone.

Aside from a couple flareups over typical toddler things, he was an utter joy to be around. We went on long walks together, we went to playgrounds, he helped me water the plants — I even sat in a lounge chair and read part of a book without interruption while he played with toys nearby.

A BOOK. I haven't read a book during daylight hours in FIVE YEARS.

Within four minutes of his brother's return on Sunday — after, adorably, they hugged each other — they started fighting over a plastic boat. Two minutes after that, Dylan got sent to his room for a time-out, because it was either that or I was going to have to trepan a hole in my own head to deal with the screaming. This morning, they fought so shriekily over who got to sit in a particular chair, I swept in like Mommy Dearest and sent them both packing.

I know that as siblings, fighting comes naturally. I know that they really do love each other, despite all the chaos. But oh, I miss the sweet little boy I got to spend time with this weekend. That's the kind of parent I want to be, the one who's happy to be with her kid, not counting the minutes until bedtime, gulping Tyenol by the fistful, and barking at everyone to SETTLE DOWN DAMMIT.

Is there any hope for stopping the insanity of sibling drama at this age? Or is that what makes one on one time so special, because it's so different from the norm?

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