I will forever be grateful for thin hotel walls. Well, at least grateful for one experience with them. I sometimes still have flashbacks to the thin walled roadside motel we stayed at on Long Island with a toddler when we were considering a move for my husband’s job. I’m pretty sure the lady next door was named Roxanne and her Red Light was definitely on…
Many years after that fateful trip to Long Island our family went on a trip to the Pacific Northwest. While in Seattle we stayed at the Waterfront Marriott. It’s a lovely place and has a great view of Elliott Bay, but the walls are a little thin. As such, it was fairly common to hear our neighbors.
Before we get to those walls, let me give you a little background. My kids are two years apart and for the most part have gotten along fairly well, but they were never particularly close. We had the usual sibling squabbles over toys, books, who’s turn it was to clean the shower in the bathroom they share, etc. There were very few knock down, drag out affairs in our home. And if one started, I tried my best to let them negotiate things themselves – only stepping in if there was the threat of imminent injury or death. Although, there was one incident when they were very small where our intervention was necessary. It is the only time that we had to use corporal punishment, but it was more than warranted seeing as it involved attempted murder in a shared bathtub. But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, the end result was I had two kids that got along fairly well, but didn’t spend much time together or in shared activity. They were mostly polite and kind to one another but led very different and separate lives, rarely doing anything together beyond the mandatory family activities.
I was fairly content with that state of relationship between my kids. I will admit that there were times I would see sibling pairs who loved to spend time together and wish mine were more like those. But overall I was grateful that my kids shared a much more positive dynamic than I had in my formative years with my own brother. To say that my sibling relationship was tumultuous is to seriously understate the dismal state of our familial bonds. Thankfully, that has changed in adulthood. I have grown to really enjoy spending time with my little brother and consider him one of my good friends. I continued to hope that my kids would eventually, as my brother and I have, become close, but resolved myself to enjoy the mostly harmonious divide between them.
Turns out, I didn’t have to wait until they were adults for their relationship to take a turn for the better. All I had to do was check into a hotel next door to a family whose kids had a fight that we could hear through those thin Marriott walls. Not long after we got to our room it became apparent that we may hear a little more of our neighbors than we were used to. The afternoon following our arrival is when the real fireworks took place. We had just come back from enjoying the bounty of the Concierge Lounge when the brother and sister staying in the room next to ours started to argue. We could tell the animosity was growing by the increasing volume of their exchange, but at first it was difficult to understand what they were fighting about. It all became clear when the brother yelled, “Give me the effing (edited) charger Bitch! Mom gave it to me!”
It became so quiet in our room I swear you could have heard a pin drop. We all looked at each other as we listened to the fight escalate. They continued to yell increasing numbers of obscenities at each other until finally we heard a door slam putting an end to the drama.
We all sat for a moment in stunned silence. Then one of us started to giggle, followed by another, then another. The giggles turned into guffaws and eventually there was a cacophony of laughter and nary a dry eye in the room. Once we had recovered our senses we had a quick discussion about how we were doing better than the family next door because we’d never had a verbal brawl that intense, let alone within earshot of others.
That could have been the end of it. Instead, that one overheard argument has had a lasting impact on the life of our family. We’ve had several discussions about how ridiculous it is to argue so vehemently over trivial things, like a phone charger. The kids realized how fortunate they were to have never had a fight like that. It also provided the kids with a tool to help deescalate arguments. When they start to argue, all it takes is someone mentioning a phone charger. That small reminder is like a breath of fresh air blowing through the situation that breaks the tension, and often even leads to a laugh or two.
Probably the most important impact it had was the appreciation of each other it provided my kids. They realized that they really did get along fairly well. They admitted that they kind of liked each other. It decreased the number of arguments and squabbling over minor transgressions. And now a few years later, I love that they spend time together when my eldest comes home from college (even if it means skipping church to hang out). I didn’t have to wait for them to be fully formed adults to witness their friendship grow.
My family owes a great deal to that brother and sister. If that happens to be one of my readers then I’d like to give you a heartfelt shout out. Thanks for fighting over the effing charger. It changed lives.