Sweet Sibling Love

Once upon a time, not that long ago, two of our boys could barely stand to be in the same room with each other. Oh how they fought. One boy couldn’t breathe without driving the other boy nuts. Let’s not talk about crimes of chewing or telling dumb jokes. It was painful and all consuming and the worst part? The boys were ages seven and nine.

The way I saw things, the next ten to twelve years were going to be very depressing indeed.

Around that time, when life with these two seemed to be a long string of “you need to apologize,” and “we don’t treat each other that way,” Paul and I took our four boys to The Citadel with our friend Fr. Tim. He was close to a family whose son was graduating that weekend and he knew our boys would love the scene.

He was right. There were canons and military men and a whole bunch of other highlights that I don’t remember but that my menfolk loved. We came home on a high from all the glory of that experience. And while you might think the moral of this story is we saw the light and left the boys there for the henceforth future, that is not where this story is going.

What I remember from that trip, my highlight of the weekend, is a conversation I had with the mom of the boy graduating. She has four boys, which is what we had at the time. She also had a baby girl at the end (which I never saw coming for us). Over that weekend there were a few moments when I was so frustrated with my boys’ behavior, so worn out by the constant bickering and tit-for-tat, that I probably didn’t hide it too well. Oh it gets old so fast.

“Two of our boys were just like that,” she said at one point, “and today they are best friends.”

What was my reaction to that possibility with my sons? Pure joy. And tears. A few were shed.

This was all so long ago and it amazes me to realize just how right that woman was. Those two little boys are now the best of friends. I am amazed sometimes to think just how badly they used to behave towards one another, it is such a distant memory.

Tonight, I was smiling to myself as I cleaned up from dinner. I stood at the sink and listened to the sounds of rain turning to hail, and the sounds of two brothers coming in from the basketball court. Brothers laughing and having fun and being for each other.

These two brothers are not the same boys from the first story, but they easily could be. As with the first two, we have endured a season of heightened agitation and do-no-right attitude, of being on each other’s radars in a very bad way. And thank you God, these two brothers are, it seems, starting to come out of a tough season of driving each other nuts. Two different boys with the same brotherly love. That complicated mix of “I will be there for you,” and “the only person who is allowed to mess with you is ME. Don’t tempt me.”

This time around it’s not quite as exhausting. But it still gets old. It’s hard work training our kids to love each other. I don’t think it ever comes easy.

But my goodness it is worth our efforts.

When my boys fight, they have to work it out. Is that over-the-top? I don’t think so. Family life should not be a combat zone where anything goes. Honesty is welcome, but always couched in courtesy and respect. Brothers for life, so don’t let any baggage weigh you down. Get it worked out, or be willing to forget. Those are your choices.

One of the best gifts my parents gave me was my siblings. Oh how I love those people! But beyond just giving us each other, my mom and dad trained us how to work out our differences. We learned to correct wrongdoing, we learned how to forgive and ask for forgiveness. But mostly, we learned how to love each other and to enjoy our fellow comrades in life. The truth is I just straight up love hanging out with my siblings. We have fun. They remind me I’m not crazy, or not any crazier than they are. That’s a nice feeling.

That glimmer of hope on the court tonight, the realization that these happy moments are not as rare as they used to be — it was an important reminder to fight the good fight. Good choices are indeed up to our children, but it’s up to us to train them how to maneuver the tough times.

We can’t force our children to make the right decisions, but we can give them every opportunity to love, forgive and enjoy these people who, Lord willing, will be there for them for the rest of their days.

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  1. Angela Weaver says:

    Thanks for this post. We have two boys, only two boys. We wanted to give them more siblings, but that just didn’t happen, much to our sorrow sometimes. Our boys only have each other and I must say that I have been in tears with grief at the thought of them continuing the bickering into their adult years and never becoming friends. Thank you for the hope on this post. I continue to pray and to teach love and gentleness and the “golden” rule, and hope that it will be better in the future. Thank you!

  2. Thank you Rachel. I needed to hear this. We have three boys and the middle one has taken a very negative stance towards his younger brother. We’ve been doing our best to address his felt-needs recently (one-on-one time, changing bedrooms etc) and we’ve seen improvement. But there was one point of desperation at the end of a day when I urged him to pray: “Dear God, please help me to endure the next six years with my brother.” I won’t give up hope that they will one day have that strong bond of brotherhood that you mentioned!

  3. It’s such a coincidence- I wrote a blog post just yesterday about getting overwhelmed by the arguing and bickering of my boys and you go and write this today! Thank you- this has given me hope for the future and prompted all too vivid memories of the fighting that went on with my own five siblings- how we forget! Thankfully though we’re the best of mates now!
    (In case you want to look at my post its http://adventuresofanunfitmother.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/i-want-my-mammy.html)

  4. Oh, Rachel! Our boys are coming into that awesomeness that is brotherly fun…..finally…..I am hoping and praying for the same for our girls. Bicker, bicker, bicker……..enough to make me crazy.

  5. Great post, I’ve been thinking of doing one on getting to the other side of sibling rivalry but you said it so well – I love this!!!

  6. I’ve been told the same thing also, Rachel, because honestly nothing bugs me more than the fact that two of my boys can hardly be in the same room together sometimes. I am hoping and praying that the tide will turn. Its frustrating! I get the different personality thing, its so apparent, but my biggest fear is that they don’t find their way to a nice friendship one day. That would hurt like heck.
    I love your “new look” by the way!

  7. Thank you for your thoughts on this, it’s good to be reminded that there is hope. We do try to teach our boys (3 of them and one girl) that they will be the ones who stick by them into adulthood, make up, treat each other with respect, yadda yadda. But oh the bickering! I would love to know just *how* you handle it when it tends to ruin special days. My husband grew up with 2 brothers as well and remembers just getting the fact, hey this is something special, don’t mess it up with bickering, don’t push the buttons! But my boys just don’t get that. Easter Mass? Yep, fight about who sits where in the van on the way home. Vacation? Yep, tease each other. Mom gives us a day off school to go to a favorite hiking spot? Yep, bicker about every little thing! So tiring and makes me want to just give up on doing special things for them when they ruin it with bickering!

  8. YAY! Thank you! We’re pregnant with our fourth (boy) in under 5 years. Man do I see that in my future (and sometimes my present). So good to hear! It’s also so encouraging to hear how blessed people (and children) are by siblings. I know this to be true, but sometimes get bogged down by the ‘less is more’ attitude toward family size. Thanks again!

  9. I love my siblings more than anything. But when I was younger, I had one sister that I fought with constantly. We couldn’t be in the same room together without wanting to kill each other. We were only a year apart, and suddenly, in high school, she became a little less “awful”. And before I knew it, we had the same friends and spent all our time together. And never looked back at those bickering years. That is what always makes me not worry about my boys and their bickering. I see my two older ones who are SO different in personality and now that they are both in high school and playing the same sport, they LOVE to spend time together. The older one is getting ready to go off to college and his brother will miss him most of all. My two younger ones are inseparable when they are not trying to kill each other. Sometimes, if two are fighting, I make them hug each other – they can’t get through the awfulness of that without laughing and it eases the tension immediately!