Every time I feel smug about my five sons’ kindness to each other, a scene like this ensues:
(Love their tanned, summer-bruised legs. Love the way Xander stays out of the fray, just enjoying his drink. Love how Hans laughs his way through the fight. And since Gabe is so rarely involved in conflict, I love his intensity.)
Scarcely a day goes by that we don’t have some sort of dispute over crucial, life-threatening matters like “That’s my Lego wheel!” “He’s cheating at Monopoly.” “Who ate the last banana?” (note: add 4 banana bunches to shopping list) With 48 relationships in our household, one of them is bound to be shaky at any given time. But we do work on being kind. We work hard
The responsibility of raising gentle, meek boys weighs heavily on me. Men of God scarcely resemble the crass, burping, selfish, testosterone driven Modern Man. Everything in the media screams “take what you want,” “avoid responsibility,” “don’t grow up.”
My first goal in parenting– before I ever had children– was to teach them to love each other. In high school, I knew two brothers who treated each other with absolute kindness and respect; I watched them, considered their actions, searched for the source of their benevolence. As babies entered my life (one after the other!), I studied the exemplary mothers and families around me and took note:
every child is the favorite– this is crucial. If parents compare or pit their children against each other, siblings begin to see each other as enemies.
focus on solutions, not blame
fighting isn’t allowed (unless it’s a really fab photo-op)
your good is my good– Kids are almost interchangeable in other people eyes. If your brothers succeed, you’ll look exceptional too.
turn off the TV– its sending all the wrong messages. Yes, even sporting events.
creativity spawns cooperation (and a lot of mess, but it’s worth it). Access to wood, tools, sandpaper and paint is essential for boys.
sometimes it’s better to quit the team– I know this sounds positively anti-American, but it’s worth it to walk away from coaches and teammates who are excessively aggressive. We have quite enough testosterone at home already, thank you.
prayer and scripture study. Nothing, nothing will change your boys’ lives more than their relationship with Christ.
patience– brotherly/sisterly love takes a long, long time.
Still, despite all our best efforts, some days are filled with petty fights, cruel words, slammed doors. I yell (and sometimes swear) and put everyone to bed early and angrily. And I want to run away (to Paris!), to give up on this impossible task of mothering…
But I don’t. Because kindness, as elusive at it may be, is a goal worth fighting for.