Monday, January 24, 2011

Brotherly Love

When I was pregnant (many stretchmarks ago), my vision of motherhood was that of my happy little brood sitting around the kitchen table playing board games. Afterward, we’d cuddle together reading bedtime stories, before my darlings would drop off into a peaceful slumber, their tiny hands grasping mine. I’d adore my perfect children, they’d adore me and of course, they would adore each other.

To further ensure that our children became Best Friends Forever, their father and I elected to space them closely together. Surely two close-in-age siblings would share interests and friends, daily traumas and triumphs, and unfaltering love forever.

As planned, my two sons were born exactly two years apart.

As far as my other envisioned plans for our happy little family? Well, if you ever want to make God laugh, just tell Him you have a plan.

My dreams of evenings playing Battleship and reading “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” soon made way for nights of drawing battle lines and screaming, “If you gave your brother a concussion…!”

By the time they were two and four, it was clear my dreams were just delusions. The only things my two boys shared were a gene pool and a desire to irritate each other. Different interests, different personalities, different world views altogether. Blood may be thicker than water, but it doesn’t dictate that two siblings must like each other. Blood, in our house, only made the carpet impossible to clean.

My dreams became nightmares, especially as the two boys grew into teenagers. As much as I dreaded the daily antagonizing and bickering, the physical fights rendered me most hapless. As the youngest of three girls, I had little experience with testosterone-fueled brawls, except for all those boys fighting over me in junior high. (Oh, wait, that was just another unfulfilled fantasy of mine.)

Extended family dinners were particularly horrific. Sure, when my mother and sisters began heading to Florida for Easter, they said they needed a break from Ohio’s slow-to-vanish winter. I knew what they truly hoped to escape.

I can't pinpoint exactly when my sons finally called a truce. The transition was imperceptible, and the signs were bewildering. Somewhere around the time my oldest graduated from high school and the youngest turned sixteen, they began talking casually about sports and music. They started exchanging political views (similar ones, and my own, thank God). They began asking each other, “How’s school going?”

They started shaking hands instead of making fists.

Now, at nineteen and twenty-one, they suddenly and incomprehensibly are friends.

As their mother, I've been warmed and heartened by this unexpected turn of events. My God, the days when they hated and fought and hated some more seemed to never, ever end. But the years? The years rushed by so quickly.

I only wish they were both here tonight, for the three of us to cuddle together. I’d squeeze their hands and I’d read them “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

That one always made us smile.

And I’m such a sucker for a happy ending.

Is your place a peaceful bunkhouse or a battlezone? Did you terrorize your younger sister? Battleship, Scrabble or the Game of Life?


  1. I guess I was kind of lucky growing up. My older brother was just 21 months older than me and we got along great most of the time.

  2. My husband has four sisters. He used to roll them up in an area rug, just for a little peace and quiet. If only we had an area rug around here ...

  3. That was totally my younger brother and I, until he went to college. That humbled him a bit (he went to OSU), being a tiny fish in a huge pond. Things got much better after that.

  4. Paul: Glad to hear it is possible after all. Your parents won the lottery on that one!

    Glasseye: Horrified and laughing out loud at the same time here...

    Bluz: Yes, I saw the gap narrow a bit more once my youngest went off to college too. Maybe I should have sent them both off to boarding school when they were six.

  5. My mother came home once to find my brother and I (the middle two of four, with 2 years between us) each gripping a handful of the other's hair screaming "I'll let go if you do!!!"

  6. 'Well, if you ever want to make God laugh, just tell Him you have a plan.' Ha! True words of wisdom, Sherri! Mine get along well for the most part but there are days when I exile them to different rooms for sanity purposes.

  7. Downith: Brutal! Hope you got the last laugh when he went bald at 30.

  8. Deb: OK, so what's your secret? Hope the tranquility--and sanity--continue.

    Thanks for coming by!

  9. My kids were good friends, but I tend to believe that happens when there's a girl as the older one -- yeah, I know, gender generalization!

    (Found you via Betsy Lerner....)

  10. Jody--Gender generalization or not, I totally agree with you. I've noticed the same thing through the years. Without a female in that first spot, it's like a pack of dogs, all vying for the alpha role.

    Glad you found me! Your blog and your website both look great--I've bookmarked them for later perusal...

  11. I was the middle child. I got along with both my siblings most of the time, but the peace was punctuated by some epic, violent or mind-bending battles.

    Our house right now is akin to a powder keg, I think. I'm sitting on the lid playing with a lighter.

  12. Lisa: Put the lighter down and walk away!