The kids hold hands trotting into Addie’s preschool in the morning, and my heart does little flips (from the cuteness) and sighs (of relief). They both flash cheesy grins on the way in. Addie gets too much hand sanitizer, so she can share some with him. “Here Owen, hold out your hands.” He helps take off her coat. Making a show of hugging and kissing goodbye, they say I love you’s and I’ll miss you’s. Teachers oooh and awww. I soak up the sweetness, and then hurry to leave with Owen before it turns sour.
They haven’t always been this way – little buddies. Parenting articles told me, when I was pregnant with Owen, he and Addie would be best friends immediately. Friends relayed stories of #1 becoming the helper, proud of their big sibling responsibilities. I heard “My 2nd watched everything my 1st did, since the moment he was born, and my 1st was SO into my 2nd that he called him ‘his’ baby!” Strangers I encountered swore having them close together would guarantee a great friendship.
“They” were not lying, but not exactly right either.
When she became a big sister at 19 months, my #1 frequently expressed both disinterest in being mama’s helper, and her new favorite word (NO). “Addie, can you help Mama and get Owen a diaper?” “NO.” “Aren’t you just the sweetest big sister?!” “NO.” And instead of mutual infatuation, my #2 was busy shrieking and spitting up for four months, while my #1 barely acknowledged his existence. Being close in age helps them connect with each other now, but not in that first insane year. Not when #1 was potty training and #2 was learning to roll (into the bathroom).
But the tides have turned, and my kids are BUDDIES. The best is when they play in the yard: sharing toys and scooping dirt with gardening tools and measuring cups. They take turns playing tee ball, sliding, and driving the car to the grocery store for mud pie ingredients. There is a sweet spot of neutral territory out there.
Our life is filled with their silly chitchat, knock-knock jokes, and singing. They ask each other for help and have learned our family format for turn taking, even if they don’t always like it. They read next to each other, play hide and seek, and cook together (in the pretend and real kitchens). Sometimes they snuggle.
Sibling relationships are complex, and unique. I have no doubt they will stay close. They fight like it’s a sport, but I try to give them the tools to work it out and bond through problem solving. As a team, they gang up on me at times. But I can take it. I am, after all, completely in charge here.
Their path to friendship did not go how “everyone” said it would, although I have witnessed that instant closeness in other families. Maybe I did something wrong? Maybe not. Usually the parents who speak up about how these things go are on the winning side. I see now that it is as good as I expected it to be; it’s the whole point of having two. Plus I get to say “Go play with your brother – that’s basically the reason we had him.”