My own boys terrify me some days with the force of their affection and loathsome, oafish behavior toward one another. They truly define love-hate relationships. Like salt and pepper I cannot imagine them without the other, but there are so many moments where I wonder if they will both survive to adulthood without killing each other in a lightsaber duel or wrestling match. The truly disconcerting part is the way Nicholas appears to revel in the torment of his younger brother, Henry. If only he put as much time and effort into homework or housework as he does in plotting and pursuing his brother's breaking point.
Yet, when there is a moment that they are apart they look for one another to tell each other something, play action figures together, discuss Star Wars for the 5 millionth time, vex their mother in the car while she is driving and making useless threats against their persons. As impatient and irritable as they can be with one another, neither of them would want to do without the other.
I wonder if this is the true training ground for success in life and marriage relationships. The forced learning of how to simultaneously want to kill and protect, love and loathe another person to the death. The learned behavior of how to be a team against outside forces that would destroy you: annoying neighbor kids, bullies, parents and bedtime. The ability to celebrate and cheer for the success of another wholeheartedly.
There are so many things I'd like to do better as a parent, things I wish I had known, wish I had done differently, wish I could get a do-over on as a momma. But one thing I think I am doing right is forcing brotherly love, togetherness, family time, and forgiveness on the boys. "I know he is a pain in the butt-just go to bed and start over tomorrow." "Stop tormenting your brother." "Because he came to your performances last year and it's your turn to be supportive of him."
Like so much in life children learn more by observance than our words as parents. I forgive the boys, I apologize when necessary, I start over, I make amends. In other words, I demonstrate to them what it means to be in a loving, flawed human relationship. The vows couples take before marriage are the same kind we should take in all family relationships:
- For Better or Worse-stupid boyfriend, bad perm, stealing my boyfriend, when you fart in front of the entire church, forget to zip your fly up, or fall down at your ballet recital.
- Richer or Poorer-and this doesn't just mean money-when things are going well and you are flush with optimism about your life I've got your back, when things are at their lowest and you need help in off the ledge I've got your back.
- In sickness and health-I'll nag you to finish your antibiotics, get a pap smear/mammogram, wear a condom, and when you hit 50 I will force you to make a double date with me to get colonoscopies.
- To love and to cherish-I will appreciate your obsession with Star Wars, turtles, Ben 10, and later South Park, blondes, Guinness on tap, and World Cup Soccer. I will appreciate that if I am ever in need of a quote from an obscure galaxy far far away-you will supply me with it readily.
- Til death do us part-lovers may come and go, friends may come and go, but I am forever. I will stand with you when you get married or divorced, bail you out if necessary, check you in to rehab, go to AA with you, remind you why that girl is no damn good for you, and cry with you when she breaks your heart again.
Harry and Pippa will never have as glamorous a wedding as their siblings, but they will have something more dear, the knowledge that no matter where or when or what their brother/sister has their back, come rain or come shine and all along the way since childhood their sibling has been preparing them to be a committed, loving spouse.