They play outside together for hours, building multi-leveled forts and jumping on the trampoline and raking leaves to jump in; they yack endlessly at night sometimes (a downside, or upside, depending on one's perspective, of sharing a room); they wrestle (regardless of where they are...I'm very sorry, staff at Costco/Safeway/Walmart/Target/pretty much anywhere); they do church and gym and swimming and skating together; they prefer to sit beside each other at meal time (which I don't usually allow because it inevitably leads to other challenges!); they watch tv side by side in their little chairs; etc etc. They clearly like being with each other, for the most part.
Seth still mostly refuses to express feelings of love or demonstrate overt affection towards Matthew - that is reserved only for Geoff and, in particular, for me, for whom his love and affection knows no bounds (insert sigh of pleasure here). If Matthew ever tries to sneak in a kiss, Seth's wrath is limitless...although Matthew doesn't seem perturbed by the outburst in the slightest any more.
But even Seth has been changing, slowly but surely, in this regard. Just this morning, I saw Seth and Lizzie combing Matthew's hair with Lizzie's brush, and minutes later I saw Seth scratching Matthew's back while Matthew scratched Seth's back. This would never have happened a few months ago and, to me, it's a very clear sign that Seth is a little more comfortable being in close proximity to Matthew.
If the boys are separated for a while, for whatever reason, it takes very little time for them to be asking for the other again. The other morning, Seth woke up earlier than Matthew and was impatient for Matthew to wake up. I had to tell him repeatedly that he wasn't to go back into their room because I didn't want him to wake Matthew up.
"But I'm so boooored, Mom," he said as he flopped onto the floor in a dramatic gesture meant to convey the intensity of his feelings. "Wheeen is Matthew going to wake up, Mom...it's taking foreeeever."
Minutes later, I saw Seth lying on the floor outside of their mostly-closed bedroom door, trying hard not to go in but clearly wanting to. Minutes after that, when walking by the boys' room, I stopped upon seeing their bedroom door open, and I peeked in; Matthew was still sleeping and, alongside his bed on the floor was stretched Seth, watching Matthew (who was hanging half over the edge of his bed, in his sleep) and waiting for any sign of wakefulness. It was so sweet I didn't have the heart to pull him out of there.
I think several things have helped them build their relationship in recent months. First, frankly, it's just taken time. They've both had so much to adjust to in the past 2+ years, and there have been some pretty brutal times. Seth is infinitely more relaxed now than ever before.
Second, I think Matthew has been maturing lately, and finally (genuinely) adapting to the life he now leads...with siblings; he is more relaxed, not quite as anxious, and both his sense of humour and mixed feelings are finally coming back...this is a huge developmental step around here!
Third, with the help of our Neufeld consultant I learned, a number of months ago, how to matchmake the boys a little more effectively. For example, in private conversations with one of the boys, I might mention something interesting/amazing about the other boy - just drop a quick hint and then move on to something else. Or I might mention, again in private, how much the other boy looks up to the one I am talking to, and provide an example...again, very quickly before deliberately moving on (usually with no breath between). Seed planting. I did/do all kinds of things to matchmake them and I have been able to see, over time, that it has given each boy a slightly new perspective (and perhaps a little grace) when looking at the other.
Third, because we school at home, the boys spend a lot of time in each other's presence. This is one of the (many) reasons we decided to h/school, knowing that it could only aid in attachment and family bonding, and I think this is now starting to 'pay off.' The kids have terrific friends, but obviously they are much more likely to spend time in each other's company than with anyone outside of our home. We're together pretty much 24 hours a day around here!
Fourth, it's also been helpful for the boys to have some things to do separate and apart from each other, even if they haven't been keen to do so. For example, while Seth starts indoor soccer later today, Matthew took up curling a few weeks ago. Both are interested in the other's activity, but we decided a few months ago that it was time to give them a few different things to involve themselves in.
Of note here...Seth kept asking me last week if he will know anyone in his soccer team and I repeatedly answered that I was pretty sure he won't know anyone there (note to self: make sure to matchmake him to his coach). I was starting to get a little annoyed with his repeated question until it suddenly occurred to me that this was a way of his expressing that he's used to having Matthew with him. The fact is that, until recently, they've done most things together and it's Matthew who always understands what Seth is talking about (when vocabulary escapes Seth, for example) and who also helps ensure that Seth understands what someone else might want him to do (eg. Sunday school teacher; gym teacher, etc). When I finally figured that out, I was able to do a few things differently to help him out. Out of the blue a few days ago, while Seth and I were relaxing in our library together, I told Seth a short story from my own childhood when I was separated from someone I was used to being with and how that felt, etc. I told the story and quickly changed the topic and moved on. I also dropped a number of small hints/messages about how hard it can be to be on one's own, etc etc. And then, after several days of dropping little things into our conversations and moving on, I sat down with him yesterday and asked him if he was a little anxious about going to soccer without Matthew. Interestingly, one of the things he referred to in that conversation was the childhood story I'd told him. Huh, I thought, dropping little hints/tidbits really does work!
Anyway, I'm not sure how long this chapter of Matthew's and Seth's relationship will last (hopefully forever!), but I'm so glad for it now. It makes life just a little easier and a whole lot more pleasant, and it reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for. It's also one of the things I used to daydream about before Seth and Lizzie joined our family...so I guess you could say that this is a dream come true for me!