Just yesterday, I wrote about what sweet brothers my boys are to each other.  And, they are . . . most of the time.  But they have also reached that point, inevitable, I think, in the lives of siblings, where every time I leave the room, I return to, “Mom!  He broke it/threw it/sat on it/pushed me!” or some variant thereof.

It’s starting to make me a little crazy.  Some days, I can’t be out of the room for more than 30 seconds at a time without some disaster taking shape.

I have a pretty good idea of how most of these incidents transpire, because I imagine it’s pretty much the same as when I’m in the room:  either Benjamin tells Liam, one time too often, how to play or what he can’t play with, and Liam destroys whatever B was playing with; or Liam destroys whatever B was playing with without any provocation; or B decides that what Liam has happily been doing for half an hour is suddenly unacceptable and decides to throw a fit.  I can never tell, based on their reports (which are always skewed in B’s favor, owing to his superior communication skills) who was the true instigator.  So I’m left to put the pieces back together and get on with things . . . until something else happens 2 minutes later.

I’m bothered by the injustice of it.  I know they have to be able to work things out, to a certain extent, but I also know that without being there to witness what’s happening, I can’t be sure who is doing what to who, and I don’t want to arbitrarily impose consequences, nor do I want them to take advantage of my absence to be unkind to each other.  So, we now have a new rule in our house.  If the boys can’t get along without me in the room, then they just can’t be in a room without me.  Now, each morning, and then again after nap time, they get the chance to get along on their own when I have to leave the room.  If they demonstrate that they can’t, then they have to follow me around, wherever I go.  So now I have a lot of company (and “help”) as I go through my day.  I can keep an eye on everyone, and if they get tired of my very exciting daily routine, then they always have the option to get along and play instead.

I do feel a little like a mother duck going through the house with them trailing behind me, but it’s actually very sweet, and I like their company.  (And so far, they’re fighting less.)  Although, I’m guessing that they’re going to figure out, pretty soon, that the formula for more play time and less time following me around, is just to get along.

Adventures in brothering

Watching my boys be brothers to each other may be my favorite part of parenting so far.  Since Liam’s birth, they have been excellent brothers to each other (although I admit it was a bit one-sided back in the beginning).  Over the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve had the wonderful privilege to watch them grow closer, and learn to love each other more and more . . . while also learning more precisely how to drive each other absolutely crazy.  Benjamin has been looking out for Liam from the beginning (although B is very much the big brother and always wants to be fastest, biggest, and have the most toys).  Liam has been trying to be like B since he could conceive of rolling over.  They are incredibly sweet to each other, even sometimes when things get tough.

These are some of the recent highlights of inter-sibling communication from our house.

Me: “Who loves their brother?”  Both boys, screaming in unison: “Me!!!!”

B to Liam, after a frustrating morning: “I’m taking you to the grocery store and leaving you in the oranges.”

B, on movie night: “Liam, we’ve eaten almost all the popcorn, would you like to have some?”

Liam, at their last living room sleepover: “Benjamin, I like your sleeping bag.”  B: “I like yours just as well.”

Liam: “Benjamin, I love you. Benjamin, I love you. Benjamin! I love you!”  Me: “Benjamin, Liam said he loves you.”  B: “Yes. I heard him.”

B: “Liam, if you wake up in the night and you’re scared, I’ll be right here.”

I love these guys. I love how much they love each other. It’s great getting to watch them be brothers.

Being the little brother

Liam received a birthday present in the mail today — from his Grandma — two presents, actually:  one for him and one for Benjamin.  We got the package early today, but waited to open it until Benjamin got home, because I knew how excited he’d be.  When I told him, on the way home from school, that we had a package from Grandma waiting for him & Liam, he became a bouncing, whirling ball of 3 year old excitement.  When we got home, he didn’t even want to wait until he had taken off his shoes and sweatshirt (for B, this is saying something) — he wanted Liam to open his present!

Of course, Benjamin helped him.  The idea was for Liam to decide which one he liked and for Benjamin to have the other.  Benjamin decided, before opening the wrapped packages, that the first one would be for Liam and the second would be for him.  (I give him MAJOR credit for deciding that the first gift was for Liam.)  The gifts were two soft cars from the “Cars” movies.  The first one was Mater, and the second one was Lightning McQueen, which worked out very well (I suspect that regardless of the order they’d been opened in, B would have ended up with Lightning McQueen, but as it was, he got to stick to his initial plan).  Liam showed no particular preference, so I went with Benjamin’s choice.  Liam is very happy with his new truck, and B is happy with this car, and that works out perfectly.

I think, though, as a little brother, you must end up spending a lot of time being the sidekick — Robin to Batman, Mater to Lightning McQueen.  And I think that’s fine, for now — Liam is thrilled with his new truck (and I’m sure he would have been thrilled with the car, if it had gone the other way).  But there will be a day when Liam doesn’t want Benjamin to choose which toy is his, and there will be a day when Liam prefers to play the hero.

There’s a part of me that dreads that day — there will be fireworks, I know.  But, at the same time, I think this is one of the great things about having siblings:  it is so much easier to live through that drama as a child instead of having to wait until you’re grown up to discover the world doesn’t turn around the place you stand.  It’ll be an interesting day, when it comes to pass.

I am so happy to watch my boys together.  Benjamin very sweetly took Liam’s truck into his room and put it in his bed before I put Liam down for his nap today.  They played and raced together all afternoon.  Liam is so happy to play with his brother — he likes his truck, but I think the best present for him is being able to play cars together with Benjamin.  He is a happy little 1 year old.

Big brother Benjamin

A year ago tomorrow, Liam joined our family.  That was the day that Benjamin became a big brother.  It is so much a part of who he is, I can’t believe he’s only been a brother for a year.

We celebrated Liam’s birthday today (well, part of the celebration — the rest comes on Friday) and Benjamin helped with nearly every part.  He helped me choose the gifts that we ordered a week ago.  He helped me choose the gifts we purchased yesterday — he even helped me carry those around the store, and then carry them home.  This morning, he helped me bake and decorate Liam’s cake.  (He also helped blow out the candles.)  He helped me wrap the gifts, decorate the cards and set the gifts out for Liam to open.  (Then, of course, he helped Liam to open and play with his toys.)  For days, he’s been asking every few hours:  “Is it Liam’s birthday yet?  Is Liam 1 yet?”  I thought he was focused on the cake and the presents — be he kept asking, even after the celebration was done.


This only describes a little of how wonderful Benjamin is to Liam.  He loves him so much.  He looks out for him — he retrieves pacifiers and toys for him, he worries when he’s upset, he consoles him when he cries.  He wants to be around Liam — he wants to play with him, go out together, cuddle together.  He kisses him, hugs him, helps him, looks for him, smiles at him.  They are wonderfully sweet together.

There are, naturally, times where I think Benjamin would like it if we could put Liam away for a little while.  Liam likes all the same things Benjamin does (of course) and often “messes up” whatever Benjamin is playing with or the way he is playing.  Benjamin’s frustration doesn’t last for long though, and it doesn’t affect the way he really feels about his brother.  They are best friends.

119Benjamin, you amaze me.  You are capable of many things not expected of someone your age.  Before Liam arrived in our lives, I actually used to worry about whether you two would get along — whether you would be happy having a little brother.  My worries were needless.  Since the moment you met him, you have loved your brother.  You are kind, loving, caring, generous, sweet — you are all of those things even more towards Liam.  Being a big brother came as naturally to you as did everything else that makes you who you are:  being thoughtful, learning quickly, being fast and strong and agile.  He wants so much to be like you.  Thank you, my sweet baby, for welcoming little Liam into our lives.  Thank you for being your wonderful self.

Loneliness and big hugs

Benjamin has had two relatively tear-free days at school.  He seems to be adjusting to the concept, enjoying himself more and making friends.  This morning, however, when I mentioned it was nearly time to get dressed for school, he got sad again.  He started crying.  (My poor guy.)  I asked him how he was feeling, and he said, “I don’t want to go to school.”  Upon further questioning, I got answers that progressed to, “I don’t like the kids”, “I don’t want to go”, “I don’t like it there” and finally, “I’m all alone there — I feel lonely.”

That’s the real issue, I think:  I’m pretty sure he actually does like the kids, and he does like the school.  He’d stay there all day if Dan, Liam & I were there with him.  (Actually, I think he’d probably be pretty happy even just with me.)  I am so proud of him for being able to voice how he feels.  I am so impressed that he understands why he feels that way.  I want to reassure him that his feelings are normal without feeding them.  I want to validate the way he’s feeling, and I want to encourage him to continue to be honest about his feelings, but I’d rather not have it turn into tantrums about going to school.  It’s hard.  I tell him that it makes sense that he feels that way, that I understand, and that when I started school, I felt lonely, too.  And then I tell him that some of my best friends, even now, are people I met at school.  (That’s actually pretty cool — I have friends I’ve known since kindergarten, and he’s played with their kids, so he knows who they are.)

I think that helps him a little, but getting dressed for school, he was still a little sad (although no more crying).  Just before it was time to go, Liam toddled over to Benjamin, fell against him, then took his arms and wrapped them around him, giving him a big hug.  He let go, smiled up and Benjamin, and then tucked his head against him and hugged him again.  And again.  Benjamin smiled and hugged him back.

Then they lost their balance and fell in a heap on the floor, laughing.  (No injuries.)  I told Benjamin, that if he feels lonely today, he should remember Liam’s hug and remember that Liam and I will be there very soon to pick him up.  As he was leaving, he said goodbye to all of us, and said, “Bye Liam!  Liam loves me and I’ll see you soon!”

I love my boys.  I am so happy that I have them in my life, but even happier that they have each other.  Liam isn’t even 1 yet, and he’s already loving Benjamin and providing emotional support.  I feel so lucky to be their mom.

Benjamin time

It’s inevitable:  having an 11 month old who doesn’t nap means that I don’t have a lot of time to spend one-on-one with B.  When Liam was very little, he napped for a few hours every day, and that gave Benjamin and I time to do things together:  read, color, build things, play.  As Liam has gotten older, his nap has gone away, and now much of my play time with Benjamin is now shared play time with Liam.

Much of the time, he doesn’t mind.  I’ve gotten better at finding things for all of us to do together (like playing ball, which Liam is amazingly adept at) but I miss the one-on-one time with Benjamin, and I think he misses it, too.  Sibling rivalry has started cropping up more and more, although he still loves Liam (he tells me so) and is still very affectionate and caring towards him.  I’m grateful that our reduced playtime hasn’t turned him against Liam entirely, but I know it’s something I need to address before it creates larger resentment.

I’ve been trying, lately, to do just that.  I’ve planned times for B & I to go out, to the park, to the movies (Dan & Liam ended up coming with us), or to stay in and play Wii — special things for he and I to do together where he can have my (relatively) undivided attention.  I’ve been putting a lot of effort in, but frankly, it hasn’t been working out.  It’s nice to spend that time with him, but it ends up feeling forced and even a little frustrating, sometimes, because it doesn’t go quite as I imagine.

This morning, Dan was putting Liam down for a nap and I was hanging out with B, who was watching tv.  B wanted to go in his room to play, and wanted me to come, too.  I was exhausted, and honestly felt like sitting and watching tv instead, but, I agreed to go with him.  Once we got there, he wanted to set up his train tracks and play with his trains.  For the first few minutes, I played along, without my heart really being in it, thinking about what I had to do today and feeling tired, but then I got caught up in his enthusiasm, and we put tracks together, switched trains around, had races, built tunnels, built bridges.  We played for an hour or so while Dan got Liam down and then while Liam slept.  It was fantastic:  exactly what I’ve been looking for.

And then, it hit me:  I don’t need to force this one-on-one time to happen.  It’s fine for me to plan something “special” from time to time for us to do together, but it’s not the “specialness” of the activity that makes the time so valuable.  B & I have lots of things we enjoy doing together:  playing trains, playing ball, coloring with chalk, reading stories.  All I have to do is make the space in my day for those things, which we already share, to happen.  It isn’t what we do that’s important, it’s the fact that we have the chance to do it.

He starts preschool next week, and between being in school for half the day, coming home, having lunch and taking a nap, I feel like I’m hardly going to see him at all.  I’m going to get less time with him, but it doesn’t mean we’re less important to each other.  I have to make sure that I’m making time for us to spend together, because I don’t want to miss out on the precious moments of playing trains or coloring with chalk.  That’s the most important part of my day.



I have two amazing brothers, both younger than me (although in Peter’s case, not by much).  (I also have three sisters, but this post isn’t about them.)  Growing up, both Peter and Adam drove me crazy — they often terrorized my toys and took immense pleasure in destroying my overly particular way of doing just about everything.  But, even when we were little, and tormenting each other, we were always there for each other, and we all loved each other very much . . . and we all knew it, even when we didn’t want to admit it.

As adults, they are the best of friends (even though I suspect they still drive each other crazy from time to time).  They work together, they share hobbies, and even bought a house together.  They take care of each other, look out for each other, and set each other straight when necessary.  Although I love my brothers very much (and miss them terribly since I’ve been gone) there is a closeness that they share which I don’t.

I see my boys together, and, even as young as they are, I see the same type of bond forming.  Nothing brings more joy to Liam than seeing Benjamin.  When Benjamin walks into the room, Liam smiles and giggles and wrestles free in order to get down and crawl (at warp speed) to Benjamin’s side.  Even at just 10 months old, he wants to be with his big brother and wants to be doing what he’s doing (which is already getting him in trouble).  Benjamin gets frustrated with Liam, to be sure (“Don’t eat that!  Don’t touch that!  That’s MINE!”) but he is so kind and sensitive to his little brother.  He already watches him and supervises what he’s doing — and not just for self-centered reasons.  He lets me know when “Liam’s playing with a toy that’s not good for babies” and today even directed him away from playing with the oscillating fan in the living room.  If I need to do something Liam objects to (anything that requires he be restrained, like diaper changes) Benjamin will come and tell me, “Mommy, he doesn’t like that”.  He routinely tells me, “I love my brother!” and “I love my little Liam!”.  I suspect I will see this adoration/protection duet play out for many years to come.  It’s amazing to watch my children love each other the way that they do.

There is really something special about brothers.  I am so happy that my boys have each other.  I’ve always thought I had the best brothers ever . . . but I think they have some competition.

Super helper

Today began my third week of German class.  I go three days per week, and the first four times I had class my mom was here, so getting there was relatively easy (for me).  All I had to do was get her set up with the things she needed for the boys, get myself ready, and get there.  Travelling alone is pretty easy — I can take stairs or escalator, I can sit in any open seat on the train (or even stand, in a relatively small space), I don’t tend to drop a lot of things, and I walk pretty fast (especially for someone fairly short-legged).

Last week, my mom went home, and reality set in.  Wednesday of last week I started getting the kids ready an hour and a half before my class started.  I made it, but barely.  So, on Friday, I allowed an extra 15 minutes of prep time . . . and got to the UN to drop off the kids at exactly the same time as Wednesday.  (I have no idea how that happens — it’s some law of space/time I missed during my collegiate studies.)  I wasn’t late either time, but I’d rather be early than late, and the level of stress I experience when I’m running late tends to make me irritable, which makes me unpleasant to be around, which is no fun for my kids.  So, it’s just better to skip it.

So, today, I was going to be early!  I had a plan to get started getting everyone ready to go a full two hours before class time.  I had visions of being an hour (or more) early to class and feeling very silly, but I was going to do it anyway.  Just before “getting ready time” was about to start, I thought I’d feed Liam, just so he’d be full and happy before we needed to leave . . . and he fell asleep, in my arms.  Liam is a wonderful, sweet baby who sleeps so well at night, and not at all during the day.  He’s not much of a napper, except for occasionally when we’re out and he’ll sleep in the stroller.  He was so sweet and so soundly asleep that I couldn’t bring myself to wake him.  So, I put Nick, Jr. on for Benjamin and just held Liam while he slept.  For 40 minutes.  At which point, I was starting to stress about potentially being very late to German class, so I decided that any potential benefit Liam was getting from his nap was about to be outweighed by me being stressed out while we got ready to go.  I (very gently) woke him up and started getting ready to go.

We made it, easily.  We got ready to leave the house (changed both diapers, got all three of us dressed) in just less than 20 minutes (which may be a record).  We got to have a leisurely walk to the train and no stress on the way.  All because Benjamin helped me out a TON while we were getting ready.  He was cooperative about his diaper change and about getting dressed, he “watched Liam” (who was in his exersaucer — I swear I don’t actually ask my 3 year old to watch my 10 month old) while I got dressed and helped me get toys together for Liam while I got him dressed.  It was amazing.

Benjamin is an amazing kid, anyway (if I do say so myself) but his capacity to truly help in such grown up ways is astounding to me.  I don’t know if he’s just naturally able to be more mature and responsible at times than I’d ever expect, or whether some flaw in my parenting of him has created this capacity before he should have it.  It isn’t always like this — there are plenty of times where his antics run counter to my mission du jour.  But today, he was my super helper (and he has been many times before).