Although I certainly wouldn't conclude at this point that the boys' relationship is on a permanently positive trajectory, I would have to say that things have progressively been improving between the two boys over the past few weeks. They still fight like cats and dogs many times throughout every day, and they complain ardently about each other, or about Geoff or me if they perceive any injustice in the way that they have been parented. But increasingly, I see the signs of bonding happening:
- They are finding things in common, which usually involve something physically engaging - running, jumping, falling, wrestling, racing, (ball) kicking, climbing, digging, riding, diving, throwing, etc etc etc.
- They seem to have similar (warped) senses of humour, especially when it comes to things such as belching and farting and shrill shrieks of laughter...contrary to what I believed in my 20s, I really do believe now that these are inbred differences between boys and girls!
- When they're together in a larger group of kids (such as Sunday School, or the h/school gym class that they've started together), I see them instinctively looking for each other when they're not side by side, and Matthew has been great at trying to explain to Seth things that are being said that he doesn't yet understand. It's actually beautiful to watch the dynamic between the two of them when they're in a larger group.
- At times they seem, almost wordlessly, to understand each other. I've seen them silently nod, or jerk a head in a particular direction, or even just roll their eyes at each other, when trying to communicate the next activity to the other...as if words are simply unnecessary at times.
Even now, as I write these words, the boys are chasing each other around the main floor of the house, in an initiation of their "grab-a-brother's-bum" game. Their circuit includes the kitchen, though the dining room and library, through the front hall to the kitchen, through the kitchen to the family room, over the family room couch and onto the counter separating the family room from the sunroom (with the brother in the lead grabbing a pillow from the couch on the way up to the counter), a jump down from the counter to the floor into the sunroom (with the pillow-possessing brother hurling the cushion at the lagging-behind brother), up the two stairs into the kitchen...and then all over again.
It's interesting that their increasing sense of repoire brings to the forefront different challenges than when they were more in the intensely-fighting-like-cats-and-dogs stage. This new dynamic requires a kind of parenting that is less oriented towards the minimizing of injury infliction and more towards a management of 'normal' relational issues and discipline challenges. For example, if the boys are in one of their hysterical laughing fits, I cannot for the life of me get them to hear my voice...it's like they're tuned in to the same radio frequency and it's one that I simply can't access! I've found myself raising my voice (something I don't often do) and even that doesn't seem to penetrate the fully engaged fog that engulfs them. For another example, if I tell one of them to do/not do something and the other boy encourages the behaviour anyway, the boy I've instructed will be inclined to listen to his brother rather than to me. Now I find myself uttering irritated questions such as: "Matthew/Seth, who do you need to listen to...your brother or your mother?" or "Seth/Matthew, can you tell me what I just asked you to do because it seems to me you're listening to your brother instead of to me?" These are very, very different kinds of issues to be dealing with than those we were dealing with just a month ago.
For the past couple of weeks, until yesterday, these newer issues were driving me a little crazy. But yesterday, in the middle of a moment of irritation with the boys, I realized with a huge jolt (God?), that this is exactly what I've been praying for. This is precisely the fodder of all of those pre-referral dreams, when I hoped and wished that I would have two boys close in age who would become each other's best friends. Though it's too soon to tell if this is a lasting, relational, everlasting kind of trend, or just a blip on the radar screen of their lives, and although this newish relationship comes with some new challenges of its own from a parenting perspective, I'd have to say that I'd take this problem over the earlier one...any day.
At this very moment, I can hear squeals of laughter coming from the front entrance, where the boys have just set up the next activity: they are sliding down the curved staircase from the upper floor to the main floor, taking turns and then riding together on top of an air mattress as they plummet and scream as if on a roller coaster. My maternal heart did a flip flop to think of the damage they could do to themselves if they fall a little too hard (I've already cleaned up three bloody boo boos today, along with a dozen or so minor owies), so I confess that I just piled some cushions on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. But I'm trying to remember that likely the worst that can happen (gulp) is that the next thing the boys have in common will be legs in a cast. Maybe, just maybe, their shared laughter would be worth a few weeks in a cast.