Tomorrow is the last day of summer vacation for my sons. One will enter Third Grade next Monday, the other Pre-Kindergarten. Earlier this week I started a mental countdown to Friday. This countdown was inspired by yet another bout of the boys’ bickering.
I thought to myself, “In a matter of days, they will be back in school. Keep the course.” I may have even done a little positive visualization — me, alone, at my desk, a hot cup of coffee in my hand.
This was my first summer staying home with the boys. At the end of June I was ready to embrace the opportunities I missed in previous years. (For the last three summers, my husband was at home. Before that I was working part-time and our older son was in daycare, his brother not yet born.)
At the start of “My First Summer At Home” (queue the Enya-esque background music now) I imagined picnics at the park, quiet moments of reading together, a manicured yard, maybe arts and crafts that would win awards for young artists and of course a home-cooked meal every night. A week or two into summer, I realized that yes, our days would contain joy and fun, but they would not be the pure bliss I had imagined. Why is this, you ask?
Brothers are not always loving to one another. (I’m sure this is true for any set of siblings; but in our home, we’re dealing with boys and brothers.) I found that the ratio of I-love-you to I’m-mad-enough-to-hit-you between brothers can and will be impacted by the amount of time they spend together, day in and day out, during the summer.
I now recall seeing this phenomenon in my friends and their siblings during summer vacations as a kid. But as an only child these moments of sibling outrage were not something I experienced in my home. In fact, as a kid, I remember getting on my bike and leaving when a friend and her sister started to fight, yet again. This summer taking off on my bike wasn’t an option.
And, I’m glad it wasn’t. Because even though those brotherly bouts of bickering left me feeling exhausted and angry, I got to witness the wonderful moments, too. I watched my boys navigate apologies — sometimes on their own and sometimes with coaching from me. I watched them learn, in a few cases, how to back out of a bout before it began. I watched them miss each other when they had those rare days apart.
As an only child, it took me years to figure out conflict. In fact, I’d suggest (not argue) that I still have a lot to learn. And now, with only one day of vacation left, I find myself feeling a bit melancholy. Yes, my morning cup of coffee won’t be interrupted by a screaming match. But I’ll miss experiencing what these boys, and I, learn from each other 24 x 7.