I’ve been putting off writing this post because it’s not nearly so sweet as writing about the boys by themselves. But it is real, and I don’t want anyone to go around thinking the reason I didn’t answer your phone call is because all the boys and I were in the middle of a big hug fest. We weren’t.
It is comical how Rocco tries to do everything Vincenzo does—especially the little things. If Vincenzo sleeps in, Rocco pretends to sleep in. If Vincenzo finishes a glass of milk at dinner and asks for more, *glug glug glug* suddenly Rocco is out of milk and needs more. When people as Vincenzo how his day (or how anything) was, Vincenzo always answers, “Awesome.” Guess who else is always “awesome” these days? Yup, Rocco.
The cool thing is Vincenzo doesn’t get bothered by this copying. He also never calls Rocco annoying or tries to exclude him when he has friends over, as is common at his age. Whenever Vincenzo sees a special car or train he tells Rocco about it. At restaurants he draws train tracks on the kids’ menus for Rocco to drive his silverware on. He often asks Rocco if he can help him brush his teeth or put on his jacket or cut up his pancake.
His sweetness is often met with a cranky, hurtful, “NO!”
Which brings us to the dark side of all this sharing/togetherness. When Vincenzo goes outside to ride the tricycle, Rocco shoves past him and claims the tricycle for his own. When Vincenzo heads for the bathroom, Rocco sprints into the bathroom and sits on the toilet first. They fight over who has more of the Snuggie, who gets to sit on which side of the grocery cart, who gets to hold which identical plastic sword.
When they are home together, they spend every minute within three feet of each other, and they are arguing nearly the entire time. Rocco messes with something of Vincenzo’s; Vincenzo lectures him; Rocco yells at him; Vincenzo takes revenge; Rocco yells louder. All day long it’s bicker, lecture, fight, yell, pout, stink eye, tattle.
We try to help them. Yesterday, for example, the boys had spent a half hour on the deck arguing over the baby walker so we decided to casually separate them to give them a break from each other. They were really yelling at each other when Kevin said, “Hey Vincenzo, want to come in and help me with the computer?” “Sure, Dad!” Vincenzo answered, and then we heard him sweetly ask Rocco, “Want to come in and help me and Daddy on the computer?”
*slamming of hands into foreheads*
So I do the only thing there is left to do.
I brainwash them.
I slip in messages to the boys throughout the day like, “Rocco loves Vincenzo so much,” and, “Isn’t your brother sweet/funny/caring?” Any time I see anything that’s even close to an act of kindness between the brothers, I point it out and tell them how lucky they are to have each other. If I pick strawberries with one of them in the garden, I help him count out half to give to brother. I help them plan surprises for each other. I sit on the floor and show them how to play with each other. And I hope it sinks in.
The other day the two were fighting over who got to sit on which stair to get their shoes on, and this was just minutes after a heartfelt talk I gave them about how they’re going to spend the rest of their lives knowing each other so they need to find ways to work as a team, and I finally just completely LOST it. I yelled at them, and I did it intentionally because for years now I’ve been patient and gentle and understanding and positive, and it just.isn’t.working. So I yelled.
Vincenzo started crying. I knew he would. Rocco sat there calmly, watching me yell, and when I was done he saw that Vincenzo was crying and so he went to him and comforted his big brother.
All the rottenness I felt for yelling evaporated, and I caught a glimpse of the boys’ future, and I think it just might be okay.
Hopefully it’s not the yelling that caused this. Hopefully it’s all the love and the positive messages we stuff them with plus their fun, quirky, distinct personalities that will give these two the “I got your back” relationship that some brothers have.
Because there will be times when their favorite toy gets broken or their arm gets broken or their spirit or their heart gets broken, and sometimes Mama won’t be able to fix it.
But maybe a brother can.