motherhood,  Parenting

Bond of brothers

My boys are lying facedown and soaking wet in a patch of sun on our thawed-out deck, relishing the 79 degree Colorado sunshine after a long winter (which, in all honesty, is probably nowhere close to finished, but I don’t have the heart to tell them…) and taking turns slapping each other on the back.

“What’s happening?!” they trade off shouting, dissolving into giggles as they slap each other over and over again, imitating a character from one of their favorite books. They’re drenched from freezing hose water and their rash guards and tiny swimsuits are plastered to their bodies. And they are supremely happy.

Just a week or two ago, down with fevers and ear infections and endless 20 degree days, these same boys were scratching each other’s metaphorical eyes out in unrelenting Lego squabbles and disagreements over whose turn it was to open the garage door with the special remote. And to be fair, they’ll probably be fighting again in 15 minutes.

But for now they are deeply content and completely engrossed in one another, their 19-month age difference barely a blip on their consciousness except, of course, when Joey feels the need to assert his chronological superiority with every checkout guy, barista, and random stranger in the library.
Then there will be a reckoning of birth order, a rattling off of personal information and an unbidden recitation of names.

RIP, mohawks.

Their personalities are so different, and yet they have a sameness between them that can only be explained by a shared pedigree. 

One is bossy, loud, impatient, slow to see the needs of others; the other more gentle, more reflective, more willing to console and to share. But I see the way they rub against each other’s temperaments, one emboldened by the fierce desire to keep up with an adored big brother, the other occasionally gentled by a younger one’s needs.

It’s amazing the way they were clearly designed to be together. And I’m amazed at how very little I had to do with it. I mean yes, I produced them both, but I couldn’t have planned the ways they complete each other, the ways they compete with each other, the ways they force generosity and coax cooperation and unselfishness out of day to day situations.

I have no doubt they’d learn these things eventually, be it in school or the workplace. But I’d rather they learned them here, now, sooner…so they have as much time as possible to sink deep in, becoming woven into the fabric of developing personalities.

Their baby sister is beloved by them both, but not fully of their world yet. She’s been grudgingly allowed into the bathtub after dinner time, and I’m seeing increased efforts to include her in playtime (or at least throw toys in her path to prevent screaming fits), but she hasn’t breached their shared imaginary world.

Maybe as she grows she’ll be welcomed into the club, or maybe the next sibling, growing now beneath my beleaguered ribcage, will be her match.

But he or she will be so much more than that, too. More than just another playmate or a contrasting personality to add to the crew; a unique and wholly unknown other to enter into the intimate world my kids share only with each other. Sometimes while I watch them play my heart constricts fiercely at the thought that my time with them is limited by the difference in our ages. I might get 50 years with them if I’m lucky. Their siblings might get 80.

They’ll grow old together because they’re growing up together. I know it’s true, because every week on  Wednesday or Thursday night I slip out of the house after bedtime duties and drive a few miles to a predetermined spot to meet two of my sisters and, occasionally, our brother who live nearby. We have drinks and sometimes dinner, too, and we laugh about stuff only people who survived life with the same crazy parents (hi, mom and dad!) under the same roof can.

And now that babies have come and jobs have demanded relocations and friends have dispersed across the globe, we’ve become, just as mom and dad endlessly reminded us we would, each other’s best grown up friends.

I can’t wait to see that for my boys. Even though I probably won’t be privy to the inner workings of it. Even though I’m already being left behind, imperceptibly, day by day as they grow and change and need less of me, but arguabley more of each other.

I hope when they’re sharing beers together one day 30 years from now they can forgive a whole host of my failures and shortcomings as a parent for the simple fact that I gave them each their best friend. And I hope they encourage each other to strive tirelessly to improve their aim, because their bathroom smells exactly the way you might imagine a small space shared by two masculine preschoolers would.

Love you, boys. And I love your love for each other. Don’t ever let it grow cold.


  • Becca R

    I love this. Having two boys so close to each other it a blessing. Mine are three years apart but they are so sweet to each other when they aren’t fighting over Legos

  • Rita Buettner

    I love being a mother to two boys! Our boys are not brothers by birth, but they are brothers by adoption, and they are truly brothers forever. It is awesome to see how close they are and how they are brothers through and through. Loved reading about your little guys!

  • bobbi @ revolution of love

    This brought tears to my eyes. One, because I witness the same with my three young boys. And two, because I have eight siblings of my own and even though I have close friends, there are none as close to the bond I have with them. We may have drove each other crazy at times growing up but we always have each others back. It’s a crazy and beautiful thing. 🙂

  • Kris

    I think this all the time as I watch my boys and my daughter. I’ve tried to instill in them that your siblings are always your first and your best friends. I love my siblings, so much. I would also add cousins in there – I grew up with close cousins, and my kids are very close to their cousins as well. Same love!

    • Jenny

      I really need to restock. Do you let your guys use the wipes themselves to wipe up? I feel conflicted about the chemical yuck factor. Maybe I’m being way too anal though. I would dearly love to instill some common decency for wiping up one’s own bodily fluids…

  • Go Bluejays!

    Oh thank you for this. My favorite lines were about how your siblings are your best friends these days. Each of your kids are a gift to one another. I asked God to send me something uplifting today because none of my sons have been for the last few weeks and this really helped.

  • diana

    Oh and I love this! Makes me want to track down all my sisters and give them hugs! Although the thought of only having 50 years with my son makes me sad too. =( Great post!

  • Laura Pearl

    Jenny, as a mother of all sons (five), this post just touched my heart completely. I LOVE the way you write about that bond unique bond that exists between brothers.

    Our boys are all grown now (31, 30, 28, 27, and 22), and although they aren’t all alike, your words describe them perfectly: “Their personalities are so different, and yet they have a sameness between them that can only be explained by a shared pedigree.” They have been groomsmen in each other’s weddings, best men in those weddings, godfathers to their nieces and nephews…and they consider each other their best friends.

    As they were growing up, my husband and I always said we thought the best thing we ever gave our boys was each other. And it’s still true.

    I always love your blog posts–but this one was extra-special. 🙂

  • Francine

    I love this! My mom used to tell my sister and I the same thing (usually when I was being a snotty older sister) about how, when we grew up, our siblings would be some of our best friends. I’m finding it true now, as my sister and I talk or see each other nearly every day and my brother and I are actually friends now, instead of siblings that got along. I love seeing my girls’ relationships grow and develop, and hope that they’ll always be there for each other as they get older.

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