The kids have often been at unhappy around each other lately. There's a subtle but intense competition between the two of them for their parents' (especially Jessica's) attention. It's not worth figuring out in all its complexity because they're often little angels together and tomorrow something will change anyway. But for now, it can be tough to be around the two of them.
For example, Lew might grab a toy to play with, Arthur will go and grab it just enough to cause Lewis to scream as if you were removing a toe nail. And then Lewis might hit Arthur hard with the toy, and Arthur will cry and hit Lewis back hard, and then they both cry for a while because they got hit hard.
As a workaround lately we sometimes each take a child and spend time with them (one upstairs, another down, etc). Tonight Jessica took Lewis upstairs to get ready for bed and I made a marble toy with Arthur in the living room. Jessica and a naked Lew came down to check out what we had made and I took care to help them cooperate. Arthur shared marbles with Lewis, even showing him the best spots to put them in. It was nice. And I, knowing that eventually Lewis would probably knock the thing down either by accident or on purpose, said to Arthur, "You know Arthur, this is a great marble toy, but if Lewis knocks it down we can always build another one." The moment I said this I realized what had happened. In that long sentence Lewis had heard a smaller edited version, "Lewis, knock it down!" And he did.
Arthur screamed and immediately grabbed a huge chunk of marble toy and smashed it over his brother's head. Then Lewis collapsed into Jessica's arms and cried really loud. And Arthur yelled, "Can we build another one, Papa? Can we? Can we?! Can we!!!" I could barely hear him over Lewis, who I had plucked from Jessica's arms to further console. Then I felt something warm trickle down my arm and onto my favorite wool sweater. Lewis was peeing and crying at the same time. And when Arthur noticed I was ignoring him and focusing instead on Lew's urine, he screamed as loud as his four-year-old body would allow. This was a moment a more seasoned parent might be able to avoid losing it. But I wasn't able, and yelled as loud as I could, "BE QUIET!!" and stomped into the kitchen.
Art was scared and followed me into the kitchen saying through his tears and fast breathing that he doesn't like it when I use that loud voice. And I said I was really sorry, that I had lost my cool, and that I had found my cool in the kitchen. We had a long hug and everything was quiet. Jessica, who afterwards said she's lost similar amounts of cool at home with the kids, immediately forgave me and we all went on to have a lovely evening. I'm not proud of that moment and hope next time I will do better and not lose it. But at the same time I'm proud our family--especially Arthur--that we're able forgive each other and keep loving each other.