Posted by Sarah Anderson
Three years ago, when I found out I was pregnant with my second boy, I was relieved. I already had one, so the immediate thought in my mind was, “I got this. I know boys. This will be my oldest son—version 2.0.” But literally, from the moment I was able to feel my second little guy move, I knew he was, in no uncertain terms, nothing like his brother.
Every moment since has confirmed what I suspected then. I may have two boys, but they are their own deal. I have one more sensitive, compassionate, and intuitive. He is a thinker, a learner, a great question asker and a budding evangelist. I have another one whose love language is teasing, whose first word was “go”, who runs and skips more than he walks, who laughs when he falls down and sees rules as more like an opportunity to make a joke than to actually obey.
They are an absolute blast on their own. Together…they are more like oil and water. We get glimpses of harmony, shared giggles, and (melt my heart) handholding. But more often I witness the playing out of a “fun fact” I recently learned of: Brothers under the age of seven fight every seventeen minutes. And it is my personal opinion that when they have been apart for most of the day, they feel the need to make up for lost time when reunited.
It’s exhausting—for me, the adult/peacemaker/referee. But I know it’s exhausting for them too. One wonders why the other won’t just lighten up. The other wonders why it is so funny to disrupt his very involved story telling. I imagine consciously or not, they see each other as so alien and feel to some degree, a sense of frustration. Family is complicated enough—but add in our glaring disparities and the fact that we are surrounded by each other all. the. time—and, the whole concept of family can start to feel like a cruel joke.
But several months ago I read a quote from Jeffrey Kluger that shifted my opinion on siblings from exasperating to endearing. He writes, “Siblings are the only relatives, and perhaps the only people you’ll ever know, who are with you through the entire arc of your life. Your parents leave you too soon and your kids and spouse come along late, but your siblings know you when you are in your most [undeveloped] form.”
He’s on to something. There is something powerful that comes from the sibling relationship. Something that can’t be replicated. The tricky thing is, though it has dizzying possibility, it isn’t a promise. It’s a gamble—it’s a relationship that has to be fought for both now and later—when the kids who share baths, bedrooms, and germs have outgrown the homes they come from and start to create their own.
It would be easier most days for me to let each of my boys do their own thing. To separate out their lives to a level of ease, convenience and quiet that sounds really appealing. Why break up the fight over that toy, when I could just buy a replica so they both have one? Why not hang with one and my husband with the other so both get individualized attention without threat, disruption or annoyance from the other?
That way would be easier.
But I know the quiet I am anxious for comes at the expense of something special, profound and slick—something that could slip away so effortlessly I wouldn’t even realize it until my boys were long grown and gone. The potential for something great. The hope for something lasting. A relationship with each other, in spite of each other, where they may actually manage to like each other.
We can’t force our kids to be best friends. But we can create homes and opportunities for them to learn to appreciate the things that make them maddeningly different and inspiringly unique. We can celebrate differences and facilitate dissimilarities. And we can let them know, always, that as different as they maybe, they are a gift. To us. And to each other.
Now hold on. My seventeen minutes is up and someone is crying.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR FRIENDS ARE RAISING JERKS
Posted by Jon Acuff
Is there anything harder than making friends with other couples?
When you first get married, you tend to run into two possible scenarios:
By “not get along” I don’t mean they have a hard time not fighting each other. To date, I’ve never said to my wife, “I’m so glad you and Samantha are good friends, but last time she was over, her husband hit me over the back with a chair. Fortunately, my core is ridiculous and I was able to absorb the blow, but that guy is the worst.”
By “not get along,” I mean that while the wives are catching up enthusiastically, the husbands stare at each other blankly for two awkward hours over dinner. Or vice versa.
But you struggle through, you do the work of finding friends you both love hanging out with. You even get a few that pass the ultimate test, going on vacation together! There are friends and then there are people you can actually stand long enough to spend a week with at the beach.
Things seem perfect, right up to the moment that kids are added to the mix. Now in addition to wives getting along with wives and husbands getting along with husbands, you have to worry if your kids will mix well. Worst of all is when your close friends raise jerks.
“Raise jerks” is a strong phrase that I used mostly because it’s fun and “have different parenting styles than your own” is such a boring collection of words. Right now, though, I promise that some of your friends have kids that you don’t want your kids to be around. Maybe they’re loose with discipline. Maybe their kid swears like a sailor which is surprising for a toddler. Maybe your friends overlook correctable behavior like “biting” with the laziest of all phrases, “That’s just kids being kids.”
Regardless of the reason, you’re suddenly finding it hard to hang out with your friends because their kids are jerks. How do you handle that? Here are a few ideas:
1. GET A BABYSITTER.
Who says you have to always have the kids connect? Don’t lose friends just because you think every time you hang out has to be a full family affair.
2. MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT OVERREACTING.
People always say you shouldn’t talk about religion or politics with people you don’t know. Let’s add “parenting styles” to that list. If you want to have the most awkward conversation in the history of mankind, try to force your personal parenting style on your friend. Make sure you’re not overreacting to what might really amount to just a difference in preferences.
3. TALK WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
If you have a real relationship, you can have a real conversation. If you don’t, there’s no amount of kid gloves you can use to broach the topic without a blow-up. But if the issues are bad enough that you’re going to lose the friendship, be honest and be vulnerable.
4. MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
Is this one extreme? It is, but maybe you hate confrontation as much as me. Maybe when you weigh your options, the only one that makes sense is to sell your house, quit your job and move to California. You can make new friends there. People are very open-minded and there are palm trees and stuff.
I feel like I really brought it on home with that fourth point.
I should turn this topic into a book because I didn’t even have time to address the surprise twist. What if you’re the couple who is raising a jerk? Oh no! The call is coming from inside the house!
Relationships aren’t easy, but they’re worth it. Do the work of building couple friends. Parenting is a tough job and you’ll need other people who are on the journey with you.
Don’t overreact. Be honest. And remember there’s plenty of real estate on the west coast if nothing else works.
About the Author:
When he’s not charging his phone, New York Times Bestselling author, Jon Acuff, teaches a goal-setting course called “The 30 Days of Hustle.” To find out more, visit 30DaysofHustle.com.