Blood, Sweat and Tears: Raising Boys

boysclash They stood on opposite ends of the couch — opposite arms on opposite ends of the couch to be exact.

Then they counted down and both jumped at the same time towards the middle of the couch, towards each other.

With each almost, mid-air collision I held my breath, and with each safe landing I cackled along with them. Mom was in the kitchen and unaware of this semi-dangerous game, but I don’t think she would have put a stop to it either if she was nearby. They had an extra layer of pillows laid out across the couch and the only real threat was of the skull on skull variety. I was definitely ready to stop the whole thing when I first walked into the room, but after a couple of jumps I noted how our 6-year-old was letting the 3-year-old jump a tad earlier so he could gauge his own jump to avoid any major collisions. The 3-year-old (Freight Train we call him) had no such reservations.

For some reason my mind jumped right to my early teen years and a scene involving my friend and his older brother that featured one holding a metal rake and the other a shovel in addition to lots of swearing and an equal amount of tension. I have no idea why my brain connected the two as one scene was innocent play and the other a legitimate fight between brothers that somehow escalated to garden tools as weapons, but the connection was made and my reasoning now being that boys simply have a penchant for living on the edge of danger as the common denominator. And when those boys happen to be brothers and somewhat close in age, this living on the edge often leads to fighting/clashing.

My brother and I happen to be 8 1/2 years apart in age and such things never really materialized with us as we simply weren’t doing the same activities because of this age gap. My boys are only 3 years apart and the friend I referenced above was close to the same with his brother. The reality is that the closer you are in age to your siblings the more your activities will overlap.

My boys are close in age and their activities definitely overlap. The little guy is learning to ride his tricycle just his older brother is mastering life without training wheels, both of them are naturals with the soccer ball and can play together in the yard without too great of a gap, and it won’t be long before Freight Train is on skates and bringing his torpedo mentality to the ice in contrast to his older brother’s juke and jive style. Outside of their physical activities both of them are amazingly good and eerily equal at many of the family games we play, matching/memory games and Spot it most specifically. They also both like playing with matchbox cars, Lego sets, and marble tracks.

Basically their worlds and activities overlap frequently and the result is them either living on the edge of danger together in laughter or fighting over something trivial that usually ends in tears and forced separation.

We talked gender earlier this week on Dads Round Table and I have to imagine there are similar instances with siblings of all genders, but I would also assume that such instances don’t as often come with the tendency for bodily harm resulting from jumping off the arms of couches or fighting each other with rusty garden tools (an incident that ended without any actual swings taken with said tools, by the way).

So why did I let my boys continue jumping and risk a mid-air collision that had the potential for injury? Because I know my opponent. I know what it’s like to be a boy and I know we like to toe the line of danger. I also have seen first-hand how brothers can, and will, clash. But they need to have these experiences so that they can learn from them. With every fight comes the learning experience to put it behind them and move on. With each injury comes a lesson that their extreme actions are not without risk.

Raising boys is flavor all unto itself that will cause you to shake your head with each sidestep of a visit to the emergency room, but with each injury and fight-free session comes a deeper bond between brothers via the shared experience of doing something they love — flirting with danger.


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About Brad the Dad

Enjoy a unique, fresh and entertaining perspective on parenting as Brad the Dad learns what it takes to raise 2 boys in today's world. #DadsRT co-founder.

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  1. I completely understand that. When my boys start rough playing, I keep an ear out for the subtle changes that indicate someone is about to take it too far. Sometimes I miss it, and then people get hurt. Other times it doesn’t happen and they just keep rolling all over each other to their delight. As a mom, the behavior baffles me, but I know it is part of ‘being a boy’. The hardest part was getting schools and daycare to see that sometimes roughhousing is just that, rough play, not mean play. I wish schools and daycares let boys be boys and work all that energy off. It makes indoor time so much easier for them to bear.

    • Brad the Dad says:

      Oh Lynette, how I know that subtle change in sound that indicates their rough play has taken a turn for the worse. And I definitely miss it often and beat myself up for not acting sooner, but also just as often like to see what the outcome will be. Will they figure it out or will they crash and burn yet again?

      You say the behavior baffles you and that was kind of my intention behind writing this article. It’s baffling behavior for sure, but it’s almost one of those “it is what it is” things with boys. Understanding and knowing your “enemy” is half the battle and with boys/brothers, this is daily life 101.

      The quirks of schools/daycare? Not touching that one. 😉

    • Lynette-
      It’s simple. Boys = puppies.
      And Brad? Thank-you.

  2. David Stanley says:

    Oh, Jeez- this is so spot-on. The gash over my eyebrow when I was six from divebombing over my three YO brother on the couch, overshooting the landing and cracking my skull on the arm of the rocking chair, my brother’s broken collarbone when I tried to bounce him into the air, the three stitches he needed on his foot when I chased him around the backyard and his foot slid under the chainlink fence, the hole in my butt when we were playing football in the kitchen, and I landed, ass first, on the dishwasher’s silverware rack-right on a steak knife (loaded improperly-point up- in the washer), the hole is the drywall when we were playing catch with a milkcrate, and Mikey missed. Love this.

    • Brad the Dad says:

      My wife enjoyed your descriptives greatly, David. The steak knife one still has me whimpering in the corner like a baby when I think about it.

      As a brother myself and the father of brothers my heart goes out to you, my friend. Here’s to Mikey!

  3. Daddysincharge says:

    My boys really know how to push it to the limits. They are absolute enemies but also best of friends. They can’t stand being around each, but can’t let the other be alone.

    • Brad the Dad says:

      John, you pretty much just expressed everything I was trying to say in my article in 3 sentences. Are you for hire?

  4. My boys are 4 and 2 and one of the great joys in my life right now is just being an observer, watching them interact when they don’t know they’re being watched. They can be so sweet to each other one second, and then so cruel the next. The cruelty is always water under the bridge pretty fast though. I hope they’re able to stay close into adulthood, unlike my two brothers and I. Thanks for the read.

    • Brad the Dad says:

      Don, I agree about the great joy that is simply being an observer. Sometimes I wish I had a two-way mirror to watch them because once they notice me observing their tune usually changes and becomes a competition for my attention.

      So sweet to each other one second and so cruel the next? Totally.

      Sorry to hear about you and your brothers. The older I get and the more I learn about the world at large, the more I yearn for my innocence back. Some of my cousins that are very close to me don’t talk to their siblings and it hurts me as much as I’m sure it hurts them tenfold. As I said in the article, my brother and I are 8 1/2 years apart and I used to harass him and his friends relentlessly growing up. We were never really that close until he grew up (his college years) and now we are closer than ever.

      I always hold out hope for family and in a perfect world I would wish for no wedges between family, and even no wedges between those friends who feel like family.

  5. Happiest Daddy says:

    As the father of two boys (ages 3 and nearly 2) I have always said it’s a good thing that little brothers have short memories.

    • Brad the Dad says:

      They totally do and I’m thankful for it. Not only with themselves, but with the short memories for the bad decisions I make as well. Sometimes I bark at them for silly stuff and immediately feel bad, but when they are snuggling into me mere minutes later, I thank the short term memory gods profusely.

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