In this corner of the ring, we have Parker – the dominating, manipulating, always in charge, boss of the house, everything belongs to me, big brother!
And in this corner of the ring, we have Theo – the sneaky, whining, personal space violating, but he caused me to do it, nothing is ever my fault, little brother!
Holy cow. My house feels like a boxing ring lately. It’s punch for punch, back and forth between Parker and Theo but Josh and I are the ones taking the blows. Generally, I feel like we kinda know what we’re doing when it comes to this parenting stuff but the constant bickering between our boys is something that’s leaving us scratching our heads. They’ve always fought but nothing compared to what the past few months have been like. It gets so bad that sometimes I think they can’t stand each other.
The problem is easy to point out. They’re completely different. I don’t know if two people born within two and a half years of each other, into the same house, with the same parents have ever been more different. Parker is more like me and Theo is more like Josh. Parker is more of an introvert who likes to keep his things and his thoughts private (for the most part) and Theo is an extrovert who wants to share everything with everyone and expects that others should do the same in return. Parker is less emotional while Theo is extremely sensitive. Their opposite personalities have always been what balances them, just like Josh and I balance each other, so our family has typically been pretty steady. But instead of creating balance, their opposite traits have been creating friction and quite frankly, it sucks!
As easy as the problem is to pin down, finding the solution is equally as hard. First and foremost, it’s difficult for Josh and I not to take sides. Obviously, since Parker is more like me, it’s easier for me to understand his perspective. I was the oldest kid and I remember what it’s like to have annoying, nagging little siblings. The same goes for Josh with Theo. He always says that Theo is such a sweet and giving (He told Parker the other night that Theo would give him the shirt off his back) little brother who only wants Parker’s attention. I think that’s a normal point of view for the youngest, which Josh is in his family.
Even if Josh and I maintain neutral ground, we can’t seem to figure out how to solve the boys’ problems while maintaining respect for each of their unique personalities. How do I teach Parker that people are more important than things without taking away his control over his own personal belongings? How do I teach Theo that his brother wanting his own space isn’t a personal attack, without driving a wedge between the two of them? More plainly, how do you encourage sharing, teamwork, camaraderie, and putting family first, without squelching two separate little growing individuals? I don’t want to take away the control Parker desires but I don’t want him to be a dictator either. I don’t want Theo to allow himself to be exploited but I also don’t want him to think he is owed something because he’s the little guy.
A few years ago I read Denis Leary’s book, “Why We Suck,” and took away something that helps me get through the days without calling up a psychiatrist or admitting us all to the loony bin. He said that dysfunction becomes normal when you’re confined to sharing the same four walls with people for a lifetime. Living with other people, even if they’re the people you love most in the world, is hard and I know it’s normal for brothers to fight. But at this point, if Josh and I don’t come up with something soon to help cut the tension, my solution will be a nice, thick pair of earplugs.