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Becoming Brothers

Nov 30, 2012

by Caleb Gardner handmade and vintage goods

It started out well. Miles had eagerly awaited his little brother and now he was here. Hundreds of little kisses for his new baby brother, Jack, given at all times of the day, upon request and without prompting. Everyone was excited.

We had a few weeks of Miles giving his little brother every courtesy. The novelty, however, wore off as Miles realized this change in our family was permanent. His mother, especially his mother, was not going to be there for him like she used to be.

The end of the little brother honeymoon has not been easy. There have been more tantrums. Things he had learned have disappeared — important things, like knowing when to use the potty. The understandable frustrations of a three-year-old have manifested themselves in hundreds of small ways over the past month.

Happily, this change has not brought animosity towards his brother. Now that Jack is starting to get a little older, he’s beginning to smile and interact with us. Miles has now made it his mission to get his little brother to laugh, and I believe it has made the prospect of growing interactions between the two of them exciting for him.

Eventually both relationships will reach an equilibrium. Miles will realize that his parents are not intentionally ignoring him or taking him for granted. But his brother will also grow into a being with opinions and desires of his own. He won’t be a sedentary object that occasionally smiles; he’ll be the moving target that likes to play with Miles’s toys. Sometime soon, Jack will become a playmate and a threat, a confidant and the competition. Brothers are natural familial “frenemies.”

Of course, Jack won’t see it this way until he’s much older. Miles will be his idol, and he will follow him from the moment he has the ability to do so. Jack is going to look to Miles to teach him everything (especially how to get things by us). I look forward to seeing how naturally Miles falls into the role of teacher.

Most of the way we have approached parenting up to this point has involved being very intentional about everything we do. But something tells me there isn’t much we can do to facilitate the relationship between these two except get out of the way and watch it happen. I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Were you hands off with the relationship between your kids? What bumps did you encounter along the way?


  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 7 years ago

    Aww, they may become best buds down the road! Hang in there.

  • theowlclub

    Suki from theowlclub said 7 years ago

    This post is intriguing, slightly scary and at the same time encouraging for me as I wait (along with my husband and 2 1/2 yr old son) for the birth of my second son next year. I so desperately want them to be friends and love each other like my brother and I do - but I am going to take to heart the wise words in your post - "get out the way"... I'm sure letting things progress naturally (even the tricky bits) is the right thing to do.

  • thelandlockedsailor

    The Bosun and Sarita Li Johnson from TheLandlockedSailor said 7 years ago

    We also like to get out of our son's way as he learns and interacts with people and things...but so far he is still an only child! He's not quite a year and a half old, so there's still some time. I can't wait to read more responses to your questions!! Thanks for your thoughtfulness, as always, Caleb. {Her}

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy from worksofwhimsy said 7 years ago

    Sibling relationships are like a roller coaster ride. My girls (2 years apart) were best playmates when they were little, grew apart as tweens and teens and now that one is away at college, they get along again..from a distance. It can be a frustrating journey for the parent observer. Best advice? Never, ever compare a child to their sibling in any way.

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    Mary Robertson from MaggiesInn said 7 years ago

    Well yes.. real life... family. It reminds me of my my place in the family and how my parents brought us at a time and mom always tried hard to make sure that we were all important at the same time... she tried!

  • TwistedThreadAndHook

    Magdalena Marsh from TwistedThreadAndHook said 7 years ago

    Oh, so many things sound familiar! My kids are now 5 and 2 and older one loves to especially 1) be as goofy as he can to get the biggest laughs out of her and 2) trick her into doing things he knows neither of them are suppose to do! Love it :) One of the things I'm trying to teach them though is that complaining does not get you anywhere - I give them the tools to deal with the problem and have their own vice. At least I try to :)

  • sewbigkeepsake

    Jess Whitney from sewbigkeepsake said 7 years ago

    Real...this idea that siblings will of course be there for each other. We all want that for ourselves, our friends and our children. Recognizing complex personalities, that we all have, will help us be a peace with the outcome.

  • KaivaKlimanis

    KaivaKlimanis said 7 years ago

    Like Suki, we're trying to help our 2.5 yr old prepare for the arrival of his sibling -- a sister -- in a few months. The matter of permanence Caleb describes is eye-opening. Sure, it's fun at first, but when will [the new sibling] go away, he might wonder. A friend suggested giving the older sibling first dibs at introducing the younger sibling when meeting new people. It helps the older one realize he's still sharing that spotlight and that his parents' hearts simply have grown larger, not that they're dividing less love between two kiddos.

  • valeriephoto

    Valerie from valeriestitchery said 7 years ago

    I'm an only child. I never wanted siblings, and affirmatively lobbied my parents against the idea of more kids. I have to say on the whole, I'm still totally fine with being an only child. I could never deal with more than one of my own. Having never dealt with other children, except at school, I wouldn't have any idea how to break up fights.

  • Solarbok

    Judy Waddell said 7 years ago

    My hubby & I are childless but we have always had pets. At the moment we have 3 cats at various ages and temperaments. They aren't human but watching them interact I've learned that animals and people aren't that different. There will be some hissing, spitting and swatting but most assuredly there will be good natured play, snuggling and sharing as well. Feed them, love them, allow them their space and trust them to work it all out according to their nature. :) Congrats on the new arrival!

  • PennyBirchWilliams

    Penny Birch-Williams from PennyBirchWilliams said 7 years ago

    Congratulations on your new son! My son was 22 months old when my daughter was born, and he was not too happy to share the attention he was accustomed to as our only child and the only young child in the extended family. However as she grew old enough to respond to him he found he had a captive audience for everything he did and said! They became 'partners in crime' in everything, in spite of the occasional issues with possessiveness, jealousy, disagreements, etc. We intervened when necessary with boundaries (i.e."We don't hit!" and that meant parents too) mostly to define behavior to show respect, courtesy and empathy toward each other and other people. They grew apart in their early school years but when we began home schooling (in 6th and 4th grades respectively) they gradually became best of friends again, their homeschooled friends were all part of the same group, and they helped each other learn. This continued into their early college years, taking some of the same classes and sharing a car. My daughter just moved in with her boyfriend and my son misses her a lot (so do my husband and I of course) but I'm so glad my kids have such a solid relationship. It means so much...I have 2 sisters who are my best friends.

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 7 years ago

    I resent the idea that being an only child is somehow less than being one of a group of siblings, that it's harmful or that we miss out on invaluable life lessons. I'm quite happy being an only child & always have been, I've never been lonely or wished for a sibling. My better half is the youngest of 6 & I find the huge family gatherings to be full of insincerity. Just having the misfortune to be related to someone by blood does not mean you'll automatically like them, & the social skills of learning to get along with everyone are just as easily learned at school.

  • CBYarbyArt

    Carrie from CBYarbyArt said 7 years ago

    I watched in amazement as my firstborn kissed his new little brother on the forehead when he first met him. (I have the photo as proof that they really DO love each other!) They are 10 and 12 now. They pick fights with each other, as siblings very often do, but if someone picks on little brother at school, big brother is there to stick up for him (the ONLY one allowed to pick on little bro is big bro himself!) They are best friends (when plotting against me) and worst enemies (when they need space). I always tell them when they are arguing that someday they will be the best of friends, like my sisters and I are now, and that I sure wish we'd all gotten along like this when we were young though.

  • CBYarbyArt

    Carrie from CBYarbyArt said 7 years ago

    To mazedasastoat from the comment above - i know your point, my other half is in the middlish of 6, and he is on speaking terms with only 1. There have been several occasions where someone has done wrong to the family for very selfish reasons, and he had no choice but to cut ties with those particular family members. (Unfortunately the other sibling that he felt close to has passed away.) I feel very fortunate to be from a very close family, but being a sibling is in no way more fulfilling that being an only child, but families need to MAKE SURE that they are instilling good family values regardless of how many children they have.

  • SketchAway

    Suhita from SketchAway said 7 years ago

    Caleb, my 2 kids are 26 months apart. My older one was in shock: tantrums, regressing to being a baby, uncontrollable crying for quite a while,especially through the first few months of nursing the baby. as soon as the little guy got to walking and interacting with her, though, it all changed: they are 5 and 7 years old, a girl and a boy, and totally inseparable. the best part is standing by and watching and overhearing the interaction, discussion and games that never happen in a parent-child situation. It only gets better form here, hang in there, it will be fabulous.

  • LoveYourBling

    Ruthie from LoveYourBling said 7 years ago

    My son was the only child for 6 years so adjusting to the new role of big brother has been rocky but getting better :)

  • emwi

    Emily Wirt from emwi said 7 years ago

    I remember being the oldest child and adjusting to my new little sister being born. It all just takes time. I told my mom growing up that the two of us would be best friends one day, we just had to get older. Now that we're grown, we're very close. Soon enough. :)

  • zoeychch

    Natasha Hough from HoughlingsHeartmade said 7 years ago

    My husband and I are yet to have children, having only the animal kind at the moment! When we do have children, I'm looking forward to discovering everything that parenthood entails. I just hope we can navigate those waters with the patience, wisdom and insight that you and your wife do, Caleb. Thanks for the eye-opening preparation! :)

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 7 years ago

    Brothers and sisters are just naturally going to fuss from time to time. As a parent, sometimes it was good to let them work it out. Other times, I saw it as an opportunity to step in and teach them how to treat people in general. My three girls are all college age now, and occasionally still have an argument or two. But they also love each other dearly and will help each other with any difficulty. Keeping God as the center of your family is most important asset a parent can have.

  • sandrostumpo

    Sandro Stumpo from GalleryDiModa said 7 years ago

    My mom just made sure she spent time with both of us (my brother and I) I often see parents spending way more time with the new baby. It is so easy to include the older sibling in almost everything being done for the new child. Explaining, acting like you need help, and including the older child in everyday tasks in even the smallest way can soften the impact of a new baby. Example- you need to burp the baby and you have a little two year older that is watching. How about sit down and ask the 2 year old to sit next to you, giving affection to both and maybe even ask the 2 year old to gently burp the baby. So my idea is to try and include the older child in different ways, showing affection, patience and smiles to both.

  • GrowingUpWild

    Kelly Engel from GrowingUpWild said 7 years ago

    This sounds much like the current state at our home! Jealousy for my 2 1/2 year old didn't hit until our newest arrival was 3 months. Like you said- the novelty wore off. Most of the day runs smoothly, but it is hard when both boys are tired and only want mom. We try to include our toddler in caring for the baby as well as to give him special one on one time but it is hard while also running a business! I keep reminding myself though that one day he will be so thankful we gave him a brother! I have such a great relationship with my siblings and hope to foster that love in my boys.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 7 years ago

    Oh dear, hopefully things will settle down for you soon - I think unfortunately sibling rivalry is all too common!

  • Pininkie

    Tanya Stovold from Pininkie said 7 years ago

    My 2nd son is due in January and my first will be 2 yrs 9 months then. So this was very interesting to read!

  • Pixie2428

    Doris C. from SewBeautifulbyDC said 7 years ago

    There are always bumps in the road along the way. My three sons are so different from each other. There was always a dissagreement of some sort. Now that they are grown, you would never have known. Now days, they are always there for one another and work on all kinds of projects and car repairs together. Hang in there, it works out eventually.

  • focuslineart

    Tracy Melton from focuslineart said 7 years ago

    What does this have to do with selling and buying handmade items? What is this parenthood magazine! Come on! This article has the word" potty " in it. How does going potty go along with creating cool stuff and selling it? Congrats on the new kid, but this shouldnt be on etsy blog.

  • tiialin

    Tiia Lin from tiialin said 7 years ago

    I don't think it matters if your 3 or 6. I have a 6 year old daughter and a 1 year old son, it's been interesting to say the least

  • KaiceJoy

    Kirsti Joy from KaiceJoy said 7 years ago

    Oh, the bumps that come with an added sibling....I have seen a full range with my four kids....but my favorite moments, when my two little boys don't see me hiding around the corner covering my laughter...are when I hear Ethan (almost 5) say to Ian (almost 3) "Hey, need to try this..." which is usually something they are NOT supposed to do, and Ian gladly does it for his big brother and then Ethan gets busted and mad things didn't go the way he planned!

  • rivahside

    rivahside said 7 years ago

    A parent must step in if there is a problem between young siblings. Don't leave everything to chance. You don't want a negative pattern of behavior to establish itself. NEVER show favoritism. NEVER allow bullying. Encourage cooperation, sharing and love. And at age three, expect a few bumps because at that age, they are still so egocentric!

  • butikonline83

    Hendri . from butikonline83 said 7 years ago

    So fabulous! :)

  • youngfolk1314

    Ribo Flavour from riboflavour said 7 years ago

    So cute!

  • sarahalsey

    Sarah Alsey from papervalentines said 6 years ago

    We speak positives into our little ones lives, and focus on the progress. What you focus on you get more of. ::sibling love::

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