Brothers are (almost) as important as parents

Of the few sparks to be found from this still-ongoing global pandemic, one that’s definitely making it into my books was watching my sons grow closer to each other as brothers.

If nothing else, it made me see anew the plus point of having both my kids being of the same gender, born a mere 20 months apart, and (thanks to the nationwide lockdown last year) spending extended times together these past 11-12 months.

The “perfect” family

person holding baby s feet
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Before, when such thoughts were still at the back of my mind and not the front, I used to unconsciously subscribed to the notion that a ‘perfect’ family would comprise a father, a mother, a son and a daughter (and in exactly that descending order from father to daughter, thank you very much!).

That’s what all advertisements would show us.

Without even realising it, much of society has absorbed this mantra, even though it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out it’s all just advertising convenience.

The easiest and most representative family make-up would have to be that man-woman-boy-girl combination. Few would dispute it, since having one kid of each gender does seem to ‘fill out’ the whole parenting experience.

“Why isn’t it a girl?”

baby in white onesie
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No surprise then that when it came time for us to have a second child, my wife and I wanted to have a girl. But as it turned out, C came along.

No complaints of course, but then again, we couldn’t help but wonder what it might have been. We were twice unsuccessful in conceiving after C, so in the end we had to settle with just having them both.

And the prospect of many days of sibling rivalry ahead!

Again, the conventional impression wasn’t lost on me. If a family only had boys, then sibling conflicts and fights would likely be the most intense, compared to other family combinations.

That did prove true on many an occasion, at least in my household.

The most recent and serious one being C’s hospitalisation back in December 2019. This was after he ‘lost’ a fight with his brother, one that led to him biting so hard on his tongue that he bled profusely, and had to be rushed to the emergency ward!

Mind you, it was a deja vu moment because the same thing happened several years before! (But that’s fodder for a different blog post I’m still figuring out how to recount)

Thankfully most of the conflicts between these brothers were milder and less eventful than I feared; nothing my wife and I couldn’t handle and help resolve.

Sibling camaraderie, not rivalry

children playing on swing
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But in the past year, I’ve noticed that J and C have found some sort of an equilibrium as brothers. It’s rather hard to say how and exactly when, but I’m not complaining! For me, to watch them now, has filled my heart with overwhelming pride and I feel so privileged to be having front row seats for this spectacle.

For instance, there was that day last year when they watched the movie Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds, in the title role of this well-known DC Comic superhero character.

After the movie, both spoke non-stop over the dinner table about it. The adults could barely get a word in, so engrossed were both boys with what the other had to say.

As soon as dinner was done, they started rummaging all around the house to find some toy that resembled a green lantern ring.

Nope, they didn’t find any, but J did manage to find a small blue round clip that was just big enough to be slipped onto their still little kiddy fingers. Without hesitation, he offered it to C!

What a generous brother! It was clear C was most grateful since he started parading around with it most proudly. J then guided his sibling into imaginary play as to what the ‘blue lantern’ ring could conjure up in terms of imaginative creations that would come to life, just like in the movie.

Having done some quick internet search, J was even able to call out the famous Green Lantern oath which goes like this:

In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!

He even researched that there were other “coloured lanterns” too, and promptly went to tell his brother all about this new discovery.

So what was usually a busy post-dinner time, when either parent had to high-tail the brothers into keeping their carelessly-strewn toys, was suddenly one where we could just sit back and watch the two of them animatedly engage each other over this pretend play.

It was as though there were only two of them in the whole universe, and they only needed each other.

For a parent, there really was no more precious a moment than this.

The loving continues

orange tabby cat beside fawn short coated puppy
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What made it even sweeter was that this strong bond and camaraderie extended into the pre-sleep routine that night, when J sat down and read Caleb’s favourite story book (Paw Patrol) to him just before our usual family devotion time.

Even though it wasn’t the first time he did it, somehow the added closeness that came after the movie (and the happy banter and play that followed), continued joyfully into the reading time.

As I watched how focused and attentive C was sitting by his older brother as J read (then got C to read some parts too), I felt both a twinge of pride and a twitch of jealousy. C was never this attentive when I read. Somehow, he preferred reading with his brother so much more.

Growing up with a brother who’s only a couple of years removed from you certainly holds a lot of promise for lots of fondly-shared moments and certain fun on a regular basis. That must be what I am watching each time I see them both together, playing and talking.

I know it’s not something that I can interpose myself into. There’s just a certain special connection they have which is reserved just for them.

So as I watch my sons, I am gratified to have front row seats for this precious spectacle.

Siblings make a difference!

unrecognizable little boys holding hands and walking on sandy seashore

According to Mark Feinberg, a research professor of health and human development at Penn State University, sibling relationships can often influence a child’s ability to adjust and develop, as much as parenting does. Especially in areas like developing social skills and learning how to resolve conflicts.

So I’m really glad for J in C’s life, and vice versa. A precious relationship I never had growing up, even though I had not one but two (albeit much older) brothers.

It’s a bond my sons ought to have. It’s what they need to have in the years ahead.

Longfellow said it best when he said:

All your strength in is your union.
All your danger is in discord. 
Therefore be at peace henceforward,

And as brothers live together.

Shakespeare too had this to say in his play “Henry V”:

From this day to the end of time,
without our being remembered:
we few, we happy few, we band of brothers—
for whoever sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother. 

So here’s praying for more good years for my wife and I to watch these brothers grow up together and to stay close and bonded!

{This is an updated, expanded version of a post I wrote last May. Why? Because for me, some insights just bear repeating!}

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