Let me start by saying, my boys are good kids. They really and honestly are. Not perfect, but perfect for where they should be in their lives right now : learning as they go, making mistakes along the way and trying to make sense of things in the crazy and sometimes complicated world of relationships. More so, their relationship!
I think if anything, I’ve really had learn to manage my expectations of them better. I always have to remind myself that raising perfect humans isn’t the end goal here, but rather raising my kids to know how to respond better to things, to always look their mistakes and bad choices in the eye and above all, learn through their sometimes bad choices, that kindness is just about the most important thing in life. I always want to remind them that the gift of brotherhood
Does this mean they are always kind to each other? NO. Does it mean they always listen to me when I warn them about the risk of playing to roughly, or hurting each other, or worse hurting each other with words? NO. It’s something I am often having to remind Noah(8) of when it comes to how he treats Brody(6) and the example he needs to set as the eldest of three kids. (Talk about pressure being the eldest kid, something I also have to consciously remind myself of – I can’t expect too much from my 8 year kid!) It’s like a universal law that allows this pecking order of power to integrate itself into daily life. The amount of times Brody will come running to me in a day telling me Noah has done God-knows what, can simply not be accounted for. I lose track after the 6th or 7th time. Partly because I’m so sick of hearing the same story. Partly because I warned them both several times prior to the fight breaking out. I’m not the only one with this super powers, moms all over the world have this sixth sense when shit is about to down and we foresee the future and all it’s endless possibilities and outcomes, before they even happen. And we all know the frustration of trying to avoid another World War breaking out
Obviously, ignoring these outbursts that erupt every five minutes in our home is probably the worst idea and only adds fuel to the fire, because then I’m accused of not caring enough about them. Can I ever win?
Case in point : The other day the boys were jumping on the trampoline and I overheard Noah say to Brody : “Punch me in the face Brodes. Do it. Just punch me right here!” I looked at him and for a split second wondered if I would be crazy to allow this twisted plan of his play out. Thankfully my motherly common-sense kicked in and before Brody could take his first swing I told them both that it really wasn’t a good idea. I gave them a long- winded speech about being kind and the dangers of how these play fights have the tendency to backfire and lead to tears. That was that. Or so I thought.
I went inside and, about 20 minutes later Noah came inside with a fat lip and blood dripping down his chin.
“Oh my Gosh babe are you okay? What happened?” I screamed as I ran over to him. He casually walked to the bathroom and with a sly grin he said “It’s wrestling mom, it’s cool. I’m like Connor McGregor” My first thought was how I planned to murder my husband that night for ever allowing the boys to watch McGregor take Eddie Alvarez on in one of the most memorable wrestling matches of all times. But I had bigger fish to fry in that moment.
“My boy I told you that this wasn’t a good idea. I told you I didn’t want you boys hurting each other. It’s not a game, it always leads to someone taking it too far.” I was quickly assured that it was JUST A GAME and that they were fine, and so I told them one last time: “Guys this is the last I wanted to hear of this extreme wrestling. Do you understand me Noah? Do you Understand me Brody? (At which point Hunter pipes in enthusiastically “I unnerstan mama!” )
Now OBVIOUSLY it wasn’t the last I heard it because exactly 10 minutes later Brody came running inside with a fat lip and blood dripping down his lip, only this time there was no sign of mucho enthusiasm. He was crying. No doubt because Noah had taken it a little too far, which left Brody feeling regretful and sorry for himself. I took one look at his teary-eyed face and without much thought I turned and walked away. Yeah yeah, evil I know. But truth is I just didn’t have it in me to get through another screaming match, another round of he said HE said, But he did this, but he did that, But he did it first and I never meant to. I looked at them and told them they both deserved each other. This led to Brody crying and saying “You don’t ever care about me when I get hurt, Why don’t you even try make me feel better?” Like I said, I can never really win.
I guess in some ways I really do mean what I say. They do deserve each other. In the best and sometimes worst way. They are either going to be each other’s worst enemies in this life, or each other’s best friends. And it’s up to them to decide how they treat each other – with kindness, fairness, love and compassion or with anger, hatred and aggression. If they choose the later, they will both be treated badly because they are both to blame for going down that road, as harmless as it may seem at first. If they choose kindness (served with a big side of wisdom), they will deserve the love and compassion that is reciprocated from each side. And this will lead to a better relationship for both of them.
BUT I realised how dangerous that way of thinking can be as well. Because as much as I’m trying to use this way of reasoning to get them to understand the laws of kindness, I am forgetting one simple rule. The rule of Grace and kindness ABOVE all. The danger with this way of thinking is that we forget that kindness should never be based on someone else’s actions. And often how we respond to someone else’s offences towards us, speaks volumes about who we are. It made me realise that teaching my children that they deserve any kind of misery, no matter the circumstances, is just not helpful. That whoever is at fault, we need to treat each other with kindness and learn to resolve conflicts and arguments in a healthy way.
I had to swallow my pride and with a tail between my legs I explained to them as best I could. I told them that they have this beautiful gift of brotherhood and that what they do with it, is up to them. I told them that a good foundation for any great friendship is based on trust, love and mutual respect. And that how they treat each other in these early years is going to set the trajectory for the rest of their lives.
I’m under no illusion that a certain level of conflict is normal between siblings. More so that boys will be boys and some healthy contact sport is vital to them growing up. I’ve just become a lot more aware at my role in it all. I need to equip my kids the tools they need to make sense of their relationship and, hopefully be part of the positive changes and adjustments they make along the way. So in this situation, when things are taken too far, they need to learn to have the common sense to stop and respond to how the other person is feeling. It really about knowing the limit and being sensitive towards each other.
Of course these conversations haven’t put an end to the arguing and bickering, but I’m hoping that by having these conversations, small seeds will planted. Seeds that will grow and flourish and later bear the fruit of a sibling relationship most cherished, most loved and most respected.