Can't Live with Him! Can't Live without Him!

“Why do the three names on the door of the dentist’s office have the same last name?” my youngest asked.

 ”They come from one family,” I responded. “At first, their father worked alone and when his sons became dentists, he invited them to join him. When he retired, they took over the business and now the two brothers work together.”

With a surprised, but pleased, expression he turned to his older brother and said, “When we grow up, let’s ‘do’ dentists together. It would be fun to see each other every day.” But before I could interject, he changed his mind and stated, “No, let’s open a soccer store instead.” Without a second thought, my older son agreed to the partnership. Considering that two hours earlier they were at each other’s throats, I held off on the preparation of the contract. However, I was pleased to learn about their future plans.

Being an only child, I’ve always dreamed about having a sibling. In fact, that is one of the reasons I wanted to have two children. I thought it was important for them to have each other throughout their lives: to give advice and to be there in the moments of need. So when I found out that I was having a second boy (right after I stopped crying that it wasn’t a girl), I decided that it was fantastic. I thought that since there is a six year difference in age, being the same gender might ensure that they will have more in common. Unfortunately, as someone with zero sibling experience, I imagined an amazing older-brother-younger-brother dynamic—the older one would teach the younger one and the little guy would thank him, nod, and agree. “What could they possibly have to fight about?” I thought naively.

Now that I have a realistic close-up of their brotherly love, I wonder how what transpires between them today will impact their relationship in the future. And while I understand that it is normal for siblings to fight, I worry about the effect on their bond. Do all the arguments get swept under the rug or will there be a recollection of the current events in the future? Fortunately, I still have control over whether they get along. But I realize that when they grow up, the closeness or the distance that they choose to have between them will be solely up to them.

Over the years, as I’ve observed the tight relationships between my parents and their siblings, I’ve wondered what we (parents) can do to help our kids stay friends over the course of their lives. Perhaps we can guide them in resolving conflicts, teach them to apologize if they are being hurtful, and explain to them that they have to be able to forgive each other no matter what. While I have no illusions about my boys working together and seeing each other every day, I do hope that having these skills in adulthood will help them navigate through difficult situations in life.

What can we do today to help our kids have a good relationship with their siblings in the future?

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