I knew it would happen someday.

Well, that isn’t exactly true. I didn’t know. I made an educated guess that it would happen.

I hoped.

Yes. I most certainly hoped.

For more than a dozen years, I kept my expectations in check while I waited for my sons to get along. I smiled politely at the other parents who boasted that their young children were “each other’s best friends,” knowing full well that their claims couldn’t possibly be true, but quietly wondering what I was doing wrong. I intellectualized the situation, noting that my oldest boy’s sensitive nature did not mesh well with my youngest son’s daily tomfoolery. I painfully watched them push each other’s buttons with an adeptness and tenacity reserved for the most skilled torturers. I tried gratitude, thanking the Universe that at least they never resorted to physical fighting. I convinced myself that emotional warfare was a better path. I pleaded, cajoled, cried, ignored, engaged and internalized their bickering for years with the promise in the back of my head that one day – when they were older – my boys would be friends.

In one of my finest parenting moments, when I had clearly had it with the argument du jour, I remembering screaming, “YOU TWO NEED TO GET ALONG BECAUSE SOMEDAY I AM GOING TO BE DEAD!! DO YOU HEAR ME??? DEAD!! AND ALL YOU WILL HAVE IS EACH OTHER. SO KNOCK IT OFF!!!”

Having your oldest child burst into tears and curl into the fetal position while your younger son just stares at you as if your head is spinning on its axis (and it just might have been) is one way of ending an argument. Suffice it to say, there was no victor that day.

But now, a decade later (don’t judge, I know one should probably not have spoken to a four year old like I did) , I finally see inklings of a brotherly relationship worth having.  My suspicion is based upon some strong anecdotal evidence, namely a near identical vacations taken six years apart.

The year was 2008. Noah was 10; Chase, 8. We planned a Spring Break trip – just the four of us – to the West Coast to see the sights and visit close friends. Our itinerary was packed with super fun activities. We got tickets to Deal or No Deal. We hit all the Southern California beaches and amusement parks. We ran into Simon Cowell at lunch at The Ivy. On paper, the trip couldn’t have been better planned or executed.  When we returned home, I swore I would never take my boys ANYWHERE together again.

From the Hotel Del to the shores of Malibu, those kids sniped at each other non-stop for five straight days. The circumstances were very familiar:

He’s touching me, he is making THAT face, I will NOT sleep in the same bed as him, he is taking too long in the bathroom, I know he likes this song on the radio but I don’t so turn it off, he has to stay on HIS side of the backseat, MOM he is STILL making that FACE!!!!!

Now when this happens at home, it is easy enough to separate the boys. But on vacation – and particularly one that largely takes place in a rental car – there is no escape. Noah and Chase start fighting and then Dave and I start fighting about what to do about Noah and Chase fighting – and before you know it, it is one giant round robin of bitterness and vitriol. Good times.

On that vacation, I lost faith that it would ever be okay between the two of them, and it hurt my heart. If my kids couldn’t get along in paradise, maybe they never would. In the name of sanity, most of our vacations after that one were spent with large groups of friends in tow – so that there would be plenty of buffers between my darlings, Cain and Abel. This strategy worked well enough, but I fretted over the lack of cohesiveness of our family due to the brotherly fissures.

Fast forward to this past week, when once again we headed out to the Left Coast – just the four of us — to visit the same friends and engage in very similar activities – all at the urging of the brothers. Clearly, their memory isn’t as good as mine. Or maybe the fighting doesn’t really bother them? But with two years left before Noah heads off to college, I needed this trip together. So off we went.

Now, as I sit here and reflect on the vacation that just was, I can’t recall a single argument between them. There were a few instances where light bait was laid out – by each of them at different times – but there were really no takers. We stayed together in a single room and there was no debate regarding who got what bed, who got to hold the room key, or where we were headed for dinner. Even the coveted position of “shotgun” never came up. I’m not ready to brag that they are each other’s best friends, but I’m thrilled to ponder the fact that my sons coexisted together for almost a week – and, I might add, quite happily at that.

So what gives and why now? Perhaps the sharper edges of childhood have softened over the last several years – and maturity is setting in. At some point, most human beings begin to understand which battles are worth fighting.  Hopefully, they have crossed the threshold of realization that who gets the slightly larger peanut butter cup is not one of them. I also believe that the ability to take a joke is learned over time. It is a key character trait in sibling harmony, but you can’t force it.

To wit, our first night of this past trip, we went to a great burger place that lets you “design” your own burger, and then name it. The boys and I quickly came up with our burger names – but Dave was uninspired, so Chase grabbed his order form and named the burger for him – not letting anyone see this “awesome” name until the server read it off the sheet.

Dave really enjoyed his “I love Chase more than Noah” burger that night. We all did – but especially Noah who years ago would have gone into an apoplectic fit at such a dig. Last week, he just smiled good naturedly and let it slide. Or perhaps he was plotting his revenge. But I’m choosing to be positive.

I think we turned the corner.



Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter