My husband comes from a fairly boy heavy family. He has two brothers each with two sons of their own and we have two brothers living here in our little family. Our boys are just eighteen months apart and share a room. Right from the beginning, I knew I really wanted them to share a room. I think the idea began with my romanticized notion brotherhood. I saw brotherhood as this special friendship bond that would tie our son’s together and make them strong, and happy, supported. 

I felt that sharing a room would help them to develop a closer relationship. Heh! The jury is still out on that one.The boys are alike in the many ways one might expect of brothers, but are different in as many or more. One likes the dark, the other wants the light on. One reads, the other listens to music. One is tidy(ish), (think seven year old boy tidy), and the other, well. . .not so much.

Though we didn’t always agree on room sharing, husband and I did agree that we wanted our boys to have a good, strong relationship to love and respect each other and to help each other navigate this crazy world. Of course, the reality is that they fight, bicker, and aggravate each other daily. Sometimes they hurt one another terribly. I was reminded othe that this week, when my boys headed out for a double sleepover with a pair of brothers the same ages as mine. My boys were at each others throats when I picked them up. The youngest was in tears and a shiner was forming around one eye.

I did my best to create space between them, as much as is possible in a caravan with two boys angrier than cats in a bag. Then I made time to hear each boy’s story, trying to ignore the interjections from across the house because it was important to them that I listen. I certainly had no misconception that I had the power to fix this. I read Siblings Without Rivalry-by Faber and Mazlish (not a year too soon) and I knew I wanted no part of being in the middle of this mess, that would only wedge the boys further apart. So I turned it over to them, just as the authors recommend.

So, I simply said, “You boys have some fun weekend plans coming. A weekend that involves a three or four hour ride, together, in a small space otherwise known as the BAT. (Big Awesome Truck). I am sure Uncle Howard is not going to want to deal with you to hating each other all weekend, you need to solve this now.”

The oldest began his “I am sorry for. . .’s” after only a short pause. They sounded sincere to this mom’s ears and thorough too. Actually they were more thorough than I may have imagined, more thorough than my assumptions might’ve predicted, if I hadn’t done this before. That is exactly why I don’t belong in the middle of these two boys’ problem. We all know kids live up to expectations, so I simply quote Faber and Mazlish, “I know you can solve this, I have confidence in you.” (often the boys grumble, “Confidence shmonficence” right before they engage each other and solve the problem.) And truly, on this day both boys apologized for everything, even the stuff they “didn’t do” according to previous statements.

I didn’t get in the middle, but after all was reasonably calm I did make sure to tell them both what concerned me most, above all, about the day’s events. “I sent you two off last night, to have some fun with your friends, to someone else’s home where rules, and routines are different and unfamiliar. I expected you two to have each others back, not tease, torment, and hurt each other. When you two are off on your own, it is not your job to put each other down and say and do mean things. Your job is to take care of each other, to help each other out and to support each other. You are brothers.

(Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish wrote Siblings Without Rivalry, it is on the Parent/Teacher reading page.)


Anonymous said...

It seems that we come from a long line of only children! I cannot imagine the complexties you face as a mother to more than one.

Amy said...

I guess it is rather complex sometimes, sometimes it is amazing to see how close they are and listen to them talk and interpret the world together :)