Like all siblings, my boys sometimes squabble. They pick and poke at each other. They tease each other. They argue. But underlying all of those things, is a deep and abiding love. And every once in a while, I get a glimpse of that love in a way that makes my heart burst with joy.
For instance, a couple weeks ago my 4-year-old was feeling scared at night. So my 8-year-old offered to sleep in his bed with him. Even though they had been arguing a few minutes before about who won a particular game, it was all put aside when my little one felt scared. His big brother offered to help, and the love was palpable.
This week, my older son came home with a gift that took him a few weeks to make. He sewed a stuffed purple cat for his little brother (who LOVES both purple and cats – this is truly a well thought out and wonderful gift for him). My little one has slept with this cat. He has brought it with him to see a play, to the library, to the market, out to brunch, as well as to show-and-tell at a class he attends.
My 4-year-old has even used his precious brother-made cat to launch at his brother in a moment of frustration. But a few minutes after the attack he said, “[Brother], I love this cat you made me. And I love that you made it. And I love you.” And they gave each other a hug with the cat sandwiched between them.
Thirty seconds later their hug devolved into a wrestling match, and the purple cat went flying. They laughed and screamed as they wrestled, the sounds melding together until it was hard to tell if they were still having fun (though the word STOP – which is considered absolute in our house – was never uttered). Until the wrestling ended, my little one gathered up his cat, and they each moved on to something else.
As my 4-year-old sat, his purple cat cradled in his lap, paging through a book, I saw the cat for what it was: another tangible reminder that no matter how often my boys shriek and swing at each other, at the heart of their relationship is an abundance of love. And after the dust settles, that’s where they return.
Together they’re learning to make their ways through the world. They’re experimenting with how to interact with people; both how to calm and how to provoke. They’re figuring out how express themselves. They’re working on how to fulfill their own needs and desires while still maintaining peace with those around them. And they’re practicing how to love.
The purple cat was a gift of love, from one brother to another. And I hope it serves as a touchstone for them both. Reminding them that even when there is tension in their relationship, they have a bedrock of love to sustain them as they work their way through it.