I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
April 14, 2015
When my son was born, I gave him the blog nickname of ‘Bruiser’ based purely on how he made my insides feel during the last few months of my pregnancy. Fortunately, the name was a perfect fit. Today, the kid loves sports and action games, playing outside with his buddies and wrestling with his father. He perpetually has food on his face and mud on his clothes, no matter how recently he’s showered or changed. He firmly believes that the words ‘butt’ and ‘fart’ are never not funny. He adores space and science experiments, monsters and sharks, motorcycles and airplanes.
But more than any of those things, he loves his older sister.
And this has presented an interesting conundrum. Punky is a dainty, dress-wearing doll fanatic who always has her nose in a book. She is also my son’s hero and best friend and has been since he was a baby, which means that anything that interests her is “cool,” according to him, even if it’s My Little Pony or Taylor Swift or anything else he typically wouldn’t go near under any circumstances.
Punky accepts her brother’s devotion with grace and a minimum of teasing. Realizing early on that the kid was going to be following her wherever she went for the foreseeable future, she has learned to develop at least some interests that she and her brother can share, like nature walks, two-player video games, Pokemon, building blanket forts, and stuffed animal collecting. When she has friends over, she (mostly) accepts the fact that her little brother will insist on being right there in the thick of whatever the girls are doing. He won’t necessarily play along- He just wants to be around and in on the action. Punky usually goes along with it because she genuinely loves him and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Watching this play out over and over again has made my heart swell with parental pride– and it’s brought a sense of healing for me, too, because I had an older brother that I worshipped as a kid and… well…. let’s just say the feeling was not and is not and never will be mutual– and leave it at that.
With that said, I knew this past weekend was going to put my kids’ brother-sister bond to the test.
Punky had a sleepover birthday party Saturday night with ten girl ranging in age from 10 to 12 years old. The girls spent most of their time outside playing an elaborate game they invented called Wolf Clan, and Bruiser was part of it. Once they came inside, though, things changed. It was time for that sleepover rite of passage known as Truth or Dare.
I came up with the truths and dares ahead of time to avoid problems– but I knew that my son really didn’t need to be a part of the game. No self-respecting 12-year-old girl would want to share her most embarrassing moment at school with an eight-year-old boy in the room. Plus, knowing that he would be asked to leave, several of the dares I created required the girls to find him and say or do something silly. And so, before the game began, Bruiser was asked to leave the playroom.
And he was devastated.
He stalked past me through the kitchen and out the front door, where he plopped down on the steps. When I went out to check on him, his face was red, his fists clenched, his eyes filled with tears. “Why don’t you come hang out with Dad and me?” I asked him. “We’ll watch whatever you want on TV. Besides, Punky and her friends are just playing a silly girl game. You’d hate it.”
“I don’t want to hang out with you and Dad,” he muttered angrily. “I just want to watch them play Truth or Dare.”
“Well, you can’t,” I told him. “You’ve got to let your sister enjoy her friends on her own for a little while. It’s only fair.” He glared back at me in wounded silence.
Seeing that we were at a stalemate, I left him alone and rejoined Dennis in the den. We flipped channels for a few minutes and stopped on a show featuring various accordion bands playing polka music for rooms full of high-stepping senior citizens. It was hilarious and oddly hypnotic. A few minutes later, Bruiser came back inside and stomped past us, still quivering with 8-year-old rage. He had FEELINGS about being banished from Punky’s party, all right, and he was finally ready to let them out.
“This!” he shouted, pointing at the television screen, “is UNCOOL!” We stared at him, trying not to laugh. “And watching this show…” he paused, clearly weighing whether his words would go too far and land him in his room for the next 30 minutes, “…MAKES PEOPLE UNCOOL!” Oh! My! We did our best to wear appropriate expressions of shock and dismay and, satisfied that his verbal arrows had hit their mark, Bruiser continued on through the den into the sunroom, slamming the door behind him.
“Whoa,” I said to my husband. “He is really upset.” We felt bad for him, but thought it best to leave him alone.
Eventually, Bruiser’s rage was spent and he consented to join us for Lost in Space on DVR. He was even invited up to the playroom for the last few rounds of dares, so he didn’t feel completely left out. But I realized that night that this is going to happen more and more as his sister gets older, and when I think about it, my heart hurts for him. Fortunately, I’m not alone.
Yesterday, I told my daughter what had happened after Bruiser was kicked out of the playroom– I thought she should know how deeply it had affected him. I assumed she’d take it into consideration and probably even giggle with me a little over The Polka Incident. Instead, she promptly burst into tears.
“I just feel so bad for him,” she wept. “Poor Bruiser. I didn’t know!”
As I watched her, tried my best not to cry right along with her. The fact that my own two children– who couldn’t be more different– love each other this much means everything, everything to me. Beyond my fervent hope that I’m witnessing the start of what will be a lifelong connection that cannot be broken, my kids have no idea that each act of kindness and concern they show for one another chips away at a hurt that has existed in me for as long as I can remember. What they have together makes up for what I didn’t have with my own brother, a thousandfold.
Parenting is hard, hard work and children by their nature often leave us feeling undervalued and unappreciated. But they also present us with unexpected, life-altering gifts– and the relationship between my two youngest children just might be the best I ever receive.
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Oh Lindsay, I think I know exactly what you mean. My kids are so loving and good to one another, I’m often just staring in amazement at how that’s even possible. My older sister was never loving or protective of me. And since we’ve been adults, she despises me and wants zero to do with me or my children. I’m so grateful to have children who truly love – and truly like – each other. I hope they hold onto that forever, because it’s a gaping hole in my life. Thanks for this touching post.
That’s wonderful. It’s a blessing, isn’t it? Your girls are fantastic. Sometimes it’s actually hard for me to watch my kids together because I never knew what a good brother-sister relationship even looked like until I saw it in them– and it makes me realize how much I missed out on.
Thank you so much for this. My boys have shared a room for eight years, every since the younger one moved out of his crib. This month, for their 10th and 13th birthdays respectively, we moved the younger one out and gave them each their own room. And no matter how excited I am for them both, no matter how much I know it’s time (the older boy is sweet and kind but he *is* going on 13 and he *does* tease), there’s a part of my heart that breaks every day when I go in to get one of them up for school and the other one isn’t there. You are so right that the best thing we can do is foster this important bond as much as possible – and then also to let it pass naturally through the phases it will go through.
Oh, there’s a fair amount of teasing going on around here, too! I think that’s inevitable. I bet your sons will stay close, though. My kids shared a room until my oldest stepdaughter went to college when daughter was in 1st grade- and now that I think about it, the shared room definitely had something to do with their closeness. Even now, they generally sleep in each other’s rooms once or twice a week, and that will probably increase this summer. One of my favorite sounds is hearing them giggling and whispering when they’re supposed to be sleeping. 🙂
Oh, bless him! As my own girls are going through the teen years, I can see them bonding with each other more as they pull away from my husband and myself, and even though my heart misses being so close to them I am certain that they’re building a relationship that, God willing, will last after I’m gone.
How sweet. That is a good thing- although it’s HARD. And it’s true, it does all go by so fast!
I felt a similar way about my daughter’s middle & high school experiences. My school years were horrible; my family relocated frequently, I didn’t make friends or participate in anything. Sometimes I was moved to tears of happiness to see my daughter have great friends and lots of fun and participate in something she truly loved (marching band).
I totally get that. It’s amazing how our children give us opportunities to right wrongs in our own lives in a way, by making sure that the same things don’t happen to them. 🙂
This realization came to play at my house January 2014. I have two boys now 12 and 10 and they are each other’s best friends. The oldest wanted a sleepover for his bday. Ok cool. Well those friends didn’t want a little brother hanging around. My younger one was crushed… He didn’t understand. Big Brother let him do everything with him. It was his friends that pushed him away. Such a tough transition!
Awww. That is tough. That’s what I really worry about- the time when my daughter’s friends start asking why she’s letting her little brother stay in the room. Right now, they hardly seem to notice. But it is something we always keep in the backs of our minds- We try to have over playmates who have younger siblings when we can, because they also tend to take the little brother’s presence for granted. 😀
This is really touching, Lindsay. As I understand it, sibling relationships are often a mirror of the parent’s relationship. If the the latter is filled with competition, insensitivity and lack of warmth, it will reflect in how kids relate to one another. To the extent that is true, you and Dennis must be modeling some wonderful qualities in the way you treat one another.
Thank you! That’s a really interesting perspective and one I never thought about.
This is wonderful and precious and it makes my heart happy. I love that you let them handle things with minimal parental involvement. And I adore how much Punky loves her brother. It reminds me of my kids. Y’all are just the best parents. Well done!
Gosh, I feel like we’re still stumbling through it– but it does help to have done it all once before with my stepdaughters! I’m definitely less panicked this time around. 🙂 And all of our kids are very close, even with a vast age difference, which is wonderful.
Before having kids I thought that my goal was to have smart kids. Within 6 months of having my first, I altered my view. I then desired kindness. With my first I wanted her to be kind to her toddler friends. With my second(her sister) I hoped that they would love and adore each other. Now with my third (their baby brother) I doubled my effort and demanded love from them at all times. We will see if this persistence pays off, but from what I have seen thus far it is worth the effort.
Good for you. I am in total agreement- I’ve realized as a parent that seeing my children show kindness and compassion to each other and to those around them is far better than an award or straight-A report card, because that’s what will lead to a truly rich and fulfilling life.
My mom always worried about my brother and I when we fought growing up. She was an only child so she didn’t understand that fights are just a part of being a sibling, that being left out is just part of being a little sister. But oh how beautifully close our relationship was, especially as adults. I heard the “pave paradise, put up a parking lot” song today and thought about the fact that I DID know what I had even before it was gone. I’m so thankful for the time I had with him.
Oh Mandy, you and your brother really did have a beautiful relationship and that comes through in your writing about him. Love to you.
We have an only child, so I really don’t have anything thoughtful to say about this. But I did want to echo your comment about that polka show being hypnotic. We discovered it last summer. It’s fascinating.
I have to admit, I was also acting as color commentator while we watched. It was fascinating to me that while some couples were right on beat to the music, a BUNCH of others were completely doing their own thing, with absolutely no regard for the tempo. Must be a polka thing! 😉
Oh my gosh, this is my dose of warm fuzzies for, like, ever. I love it. I love it I love it I love it.