I’m waiting for the explosion.
My boys are playing together, shooting baskets into a little hoop on the back of the door in their room. I can hear them laughing, having fun, high-fiving….then there’s some muffled commotion….and here it comes.
“OOWW!!” The door flings open, and the youngest boy is chasing his brother down the hall into the living room. He catches up to him and starts punching him in the back until I scream for him to stop.
“He has anger management problems!” says the oldest. Then the younger one tries to convince me that the older one purposefully elbowed him in the head while doing a layup. I make them separate and tell them they have to get along, because in the end they will be best friends. They roll their eyes.
And then comes their little sister. With the boys not being allowed to play with each other, she asks the oldest to play with her. Staring at the TV, he says “No,” so she sits on the other end of the couch and stretches her legs out long enough that she pokes him in the thigh with her big toe. He tells her to stop, and she says, “But I don’t have enough room!” Many days, I go crazy and yell at the nonsense.
I do know we used to fight. I don’t remember why or over what, but I remember my parents always telling us that we had to get along – because some day, we’d need to be there for each other. I’m sure we rolled our eyes.
When we got older, we started hanging out with our own groups of friends. All that seemed to matter to me was who was going to be at the ice rink, or where I was sleeping over that night. Many days, I’d pass my brother in the hallway on the way to my room and not say a word.
But eventually, I started taking my friends to local bars where my brother’s band was playing. There was no place else I wanted to be, and I can’t think of many of his concerts that I missed.
And even though my oldest brother is more than a decade older than me, I got closer to him when he had kids – I loved being an aunt. Once all of us siblings became parents, we had a lot of ways to relate.
We’ve had so many good times — holidays, family vacations, late nights out — and now that they each live thousands of miles away from me, I always look forward to their visits. My brothers have become my friends.
But this past week, I’ve never been more sure of what my parents told us after those petty little arguments as kids. Our mother is in intensive care, and the only thing that has gotten me through these days is having my brothers here. We’ve cried together, laughed together, drank together, prayed together, and given each other reassurance when vicious doubts set in. I know now that having more than one child was not just the selfish wish of my parents. They chose to do so as a gift to us.
My kids are young. The boys will continue to battle over basketball. My daughter will slam her bedroom door because no one is playing hide-and-seek by her silly rules (like, she’s the only one who gets to hide). They’ll part ways and make friends of their own, and feel like those are the only people that matter.
But then one day, a long way down the road, they’ll look at each other differently. They’ll realize that they are friends — the only ones who understand each other — gifts to one another from their parents. And they’ll be there for each other – just when it matters most.