The day we brought Luke home from the hospital was the day that our sweet little James turned into a monster.
Yes, a little dramatic, I know, but it’s true. James has always been more “spirited” than most of the other little boys I’ve known, stretching us as parents in every possible way. Nothing is ever easy with James, and I’m okay with that. It’s worth it. He’s an amazing kid and my husband and I recognize that one day his passionate personality will be put to good use. But for now, it’s giving us gray hairs.
So it’s no surprise that the day we brought his little brother home, he went full-toddler on us. When the baby cried, James would scream — every single time. It was most definitely nerve racking. James’ favorite phrase those first couple months was “put Luke in the swing mommy.” There was zero affection towards his tiny little brother, and in fact, he quite often tried to inflict harm — clonking baby Luke on the head, stepping on him during tummy time, pushing him in the jolly jumper or bouncing him in the infant seat too roughly till Luke would cry. I tried my best to encourage gentle interactions, but it all fell on stubborn, deaf, little 2-year-old ears. I tended to just tuck Luke safely away into my Ergo, out of harm’s way.
I honestly can only remember one sweet moment between the two of them during those early months, when James made Luke laugh for the first time. For a blessed two minutes or so, James sweetly made silly noises and faces at Luke in order to elicit that contagious joyful little baby giggle. It was glorious.
Then Luke became mobile. He would crawl his way towards James’ toys and that’s when the real trouble began. They’ve been fighting over toys ever since and probably will be for a long, long time. It went from Luke innocently reaching for his brother’s favorite train and getting screamed at or shoved, to Luke sneaking up behind James, snatching the toy and running like the dickens as his infuriated brother chases him down. After I’ve pulled James off of him, I get this pitiful look from Luke as if to say, “what? It wasn’t me!”
I’ve actively read all the articles on sharing, written down the advice from other moms and secretly look forward to the day when, instead of always having to protect Luke from his big brother, I can pull them apart and dole out equal time-outs.
Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been a few sweet moments of actual brotherly love — a spontaneous hug, a sharing of food, a tickle, playing together for longer than 5 seconds without fighting — but sometimes I think it’s all just a trap. They are tying to trip me up, throw me off my game, distract me long enough to sneak in a pinch or a shove. I’m on to them.
Crazy, I know, but as a mother of boys, I’ve accepted these thoughts. I’ve even started to embrace the reality that perhaps my boys just aren’t going to be the “lovey dovey, walk hand-in-hand, help each-other up every time” kind of brothers, at least not right now. And that’s okay.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in these short couple of years as a mom, it’s that fear-based parenting gets you nowhere. When I get trapped in those crippling thoughts of — “What if Luke ends up hating his brother? What if James becomes a bully? What if I make an unrepairable mistake as their mother and they both grow up to hate me?” — I take a step back and look at these thoughts for what they are, irrational fears. Then I pull on my big girl pants and jump back in the ring. Somebody’s got to keep these kids from killing each other.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 2-year-old James and almost 1-year-old Luke.