When I found out I was having a second boy (my older son, Miles was 2 when I got pregnant), I was thrilled. I love raising boys and I think that, as a non-feminine female who has no clue how to handle adult women who like shopping and manicures much less a 3-foot tall version of that incarnation, raising boys suits me. I envisioned my boys playing together peacefully and lovingly, making each other better people because they had each other. I pictured David and Jonathan from the Torah, but without the gay innuendo most people like to insinuate.
Fred was born in our living room as Miles watched from his highchair, and Miles loved Fred by ignoring him for the better part of two years. He was never mean to him or aggressive with him (he saved that for us), but he did not find anything interesting about Fred. Except that Fred got to nurse and he wanted to start up again.
Cut to Fred at 3 and Miles at 6. There’s been a lot of kvetching, to be honest. A lot of “Fred, NOOO!” or “Fred STOP!” and also “Fre-ed!” (with two syllables devoted to that vowel, first high, then low; like a true teenager-in-training).
Fred is a very late talker, but he learned how to communicate with me. About six months ago, Fred and Miles were playing within my line of vision, but I was tucked away in the kitchen. I saw anger from Miles over Fred wanting a toy. Then he pushed Fred. Not hard, but hard enough so that Fred’s feelings were hurt and he started to cry. Fred came to me and pantomimed exactly what happened. Miles, not knowing I had seen the whole incident, played it off well, like a true thespian (he is, after all, my son), but I informed him that the day had come when Fred’s reporting had surpassed Miles’ fibbing.
They have finally started to play together after a long period of me waiting and wondering if it was ever going to happen.
Miles very often gets annoyed that Fred follows him around and wants to play with all of his LEGOs. And it’s true. Fred idolizes Miles. He wants to do everything Miles does, from taking his shoes off left foot before right to eating broccoli (thank you Miles!) to making bubble beards in the bathtub. Miles now displays only mild to moderate disdain for sweet Fred and they sometimes even seem to enjoy each other; they wrestle playfully and sometimes we catch them kissing and hugging in the wee hours of morning in our family bed. And twice – what I have always wanted to see – Miles has picked Fred up as they both laugh hysterically, Miles amazed at how heavy Fred is and Fred amazed at how much he loves being squeezed by Miles.
We went to the LEGO store so that Miles could pick out his birthday present from my parents. He selected a triple decker police station and he brought me to tears in that store as he told me that he wanted to buy something for Fred with his own money, which he had just started saving and collecting from his coin collection three days before. I could not believe it. He had $11 to his name in a little wallet in his back pocket, and he chose a $5 car to buy for Fred. None of us could bear to see him spend almost half of his money in one day, so my parents offered to cover most of the price. “No,” Miles said very seriously. “I’ll pay $3 and they can pay $2.”
He bought that car for Fred, handed it to him gently, Fred said thank you (in vowel sounds only, but that’s another story), and we left the store. I don’t know if I can convey in words what it felt like to watch this unfold. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fights they have, the kvetching, the rare but significant pushing; the days when I wonder why I had a second child if the first can’t be grateful for a built-in potential best friend who idolizes you!
In that store, I got to see the imperfections both of our lives and our perceptions. Again and again, these small people who look like me and my husband all smooshed together (but much cuter than either of us ever were) show themselves to be wise. Wise not in what they know, but in what they reveal.
My sons are a reflection of my parenting. It is sometimes harmonious and smooth. It flows and works really well, as if I had designed it that way. And it is sometimes discordant and rough. It staggers and stalls and even collapses, casting doubt where there was previously faith. My boys are perfect exactly the way they are, and as they grow and change, my parenting does too. I am grateful for the lessons they teach me; about each other and about myself.
Want to read more by Mayim? Check out a full list of her posts here.