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We all know the book, Where The Wild Things Are. The imaginary, monster/adventure world describes the mind of a boy almost perfectly. They are adventure-seeking, monster-loving, little kings. They want to fight, take charge and beat things up. Boys are competitive little animals, and it’s not necessarily natural for them to be loving and kind to their brother(s). Brotherly love is a unique concept, but I’ve learned some things that help me understand and cultivate a loving relationship between my two boys.
- Tackling Is Love: Think of tackling, shoving or karate chopping like hugs and kisses for brothers. At first, it looks like it could be a knock out session, but there’s no anger. There is pure love and play. They absolutely love wrestling each other. Because they are still little, they haven’t learned appropriate boundaries to avoid someone (the little one) getting hurt. He usually cries for a second, then he’s back in the dog pile for more. Its completely unstoppable, only manageable. I am an all-day referee, monitoring their activity. Its football season everyday with these two because they absolutely love each other, and tackling is their favorite love language. I’ve accepted this, and I now feel a sense of peace when they are rough-housing because I am understanding what it really means.
- Emotional Love is Hard: Where the physical affirmation of love, (a punch in the arm), comes quick and easy for little boys, the emotional side of things doesn’t. For example, little Jack isn’t as quick on his feet yet. He tries hard to keep up by going faster than he should, which usually results in a fall. Benjamin naturally wants to laugh and make fun of him. Boys do that to each other, but I teach them otherwise. I created a game to help Benjamin understand his role as the big brother. He is the doctor in charge. If Jack gets hurt, he’s in charge of helping him and making him better. The role playing encourages Benjamin to “act” sympathetic, which eventually becomes more natural behavior the more he plays it. The same goes for Jack. If Benjamin gets hurt, Jack is supposed to immediately see if he’s okay. We also never skip a hug and a kiss when one is upset or hurt. Its essential that they learn to transition from pirate-sword-fighting to compassionate friend because those boundaries aren’t always natural. Now some boys have a sweeter, softer side than others. It depends on their personalities. This is how I learned to cultivate the emotional side of straight up wild boys.
- Competition is Okay: Everything is a competition. I can trick Benjamin into eating the rest of his sand which if I tell him its going to make his muscles the biggest. I can get him dressed and out the door in a rush by saying, I’ll race him to see who’s ready faster…its the best motivator! But, it also transcends between the brothers. Benjamin especially, loves to beat Jack at anything. I have to intentionally provide opportunities for Jack to excel to balance things out. Boys are competitors. They want to run and jump the highest. Naturally, brothers compete with each other. Its okay. This is a part of their language and development, so I run with it. If we have a race, I purposefully give Jack a head start, or Jack and I run together to beat Benjamin. Other times, Benjamin beats us all. If I don’t manage the competition, its totally unfair. But, if you get involved and use it as a teaching moment, they absolutely love it! And, its a way they are learning to love each other. Brothers will continue to compete as they grow, so I manage the balance now, to help set them up for a more loving type of competition later. I want them to learn to be team mates, who encourage each other with healthy competition.
Boys are so adorable when they are soft and sweet. Brotherly love is such an interesting concept that I am finally understanding. Fighting, competing, hitting, tackling…it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. Its their love language. Cultivating the love, managing the boundaries and encouraging their emotional side is my job as their mom, despite how crazy weird it seems sometimes!
I think it’s also important to remember that their relationship is unique to them. The relationship my brothers have looks nothing like my relationship with my sister or with my girlfriends. As they grew up, they hardly seemed to spend much time together, no close heart-to-heart conversations or what I would consider quality time together. But I can see that, as adults, they respect and care for each other, look out for one another, and value their relationship.
It’s a really interesting topic, and dear to my heart since I have two young boys as well. A lot of people tell me that they’ll be really good friends since they are so close in age. They usually mean that they will be good playmates, confidants, partners in crime. I think about my brothers and remind myself that friendship has many expressions, and that placing my hopes and expectations on a really particular type of friendship would likely only add tension and resentment – not a great foundation for future friendship.