During my pregnancy with my second son, I worried constantly about my first. Could my heart really hold enough love for them both? Would dividing my time and attention be cheating my firstborn out of something? Would they hate each other? Should we have had a second baby at all?
The first time we placed our newborn in his brother’s lap, my oldest — only three years old at the time — counted the teeny pink toes peeking out from beneath the blanket, looking him over with an expression that I couldn’t quite read. I held my breath in anxious anticipation of how he’d react.
Finally, leaning close to the baby, he whispered his first-ever words to his brother: “Do you want some of my Skittles?”
I let out my bated breath in a sigh of relief. If the first thing he did was offer to share, maybe this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship — because everybody knows toddlers aren’t exactly world champions at sharing.
Of course, sharing isn’t always the norm. They’re both teenagers now, and we’ve since added two more brothers to their world, bringing the grand total to four boys (and a lot of squabbling). They wrestle regularly, tackling and pummeling, huffing and heaving.
But like a storm cloud in a strong wind, the animosity blows over quickly, and I’ll find them moments later watching TV or TikTok in a heap, their physical closeness — one’s head on another’s shoulder, an arm draped over a back — reminding me of the way twins are entangled in utero. Even ranging from ages 16 to 9, they still want to sleep close to one another like they did when they were little, bunching up in uncomfortable-looking positions on mattresses meant for one.
They tease one another relentlessly, about crushes and taste in music and … well, everything, really. But if someone outside their circle of brotherhood dares to pick on any of these traits, they’re quick to jump to one another’s defense. They are evidently allowed to prey on each other’s insecurities — it’s what siblings do, after all — but no one else should even think about trying. Where one of his brothers is concerned, even the most non-confrontational of the bunch is quick to stand up for any perceived injustice.
The way they love each other overwhelms my heart, and always has. It’s one of them saving allowance for something special and then using it on a gift for his brother instead. It’s one of them comforting another after he gets in trouble. It’s sharing a snack they wanted to keep for themselves, or handing down a prized Pokémon card, or sending each other text messages that always end up with “love you”. It’s doing all these things, even though they’ve all, at one time or another, proclaimed in a fit of annoyance to “hate” their brothers.
The best gift I ever gave my sons was the magic of brotherhood. But really, that brotherhood has been just as big as a gift to me. In their relationships, I see the kind of future I hope for them — where they lean on each other even when they’re all grown with families of their own. And I see a reassurance, even on days when I feel like I’m failing as a mom (and there are plenty), that something is going right.
Brotherly love is intricate and complex, and not even a whole novel’s worth of words could ever do it justice. Brothers are one another’s worst enemies and greatest allies. They are built-in playmates, and at other times, they’re sparring partners. They’re each other’s first best friend, learning valuable lessons about compassion, love, forgiveness, and compromise just by virtue of being brothers. And if you’ve been privileged enough to witness this bond, you know it’s deep and indestructible, wonderful and beautiful.
… Even if there’s some pummeling involved once in a while.