It happens like this: I will be in the bedroom, enjoying my own special time (watching all the reality shows, cross-checking celeb news on my iphone, ANYTHING I WANT) then I will hear two sets of footsteps running and growing louder and louder, then two sweaty boys yelling:
“Nay-nay hit me!”
“TJ hit me first!”
I huff and sigh and say, “It doesn’t matter. Do not hit anyone. Now leave.”
But they don’t leave. They shuffle around, TJ usually walks forward, leading with whatever part of the body he claims is injured. So I’ll kiss it. Then Nathan wants to be acknowledged for his suffering so I pat him on the back, tell him to be the better then they’re running back downstairs.
They love each other fiercely, despite the nagging and leg fights. I put TJ to bed first and every night he whimpers, “But I want to play with Nay-Nay!” Nathan will offer TJ his Nintendo 3DS but always with the stern warning: “But don’t delete my game!”
I am exhausted being a referee, even if I’m barely doing anything more than giving a weak, sympathetic nod. Your brother hurt you? That must be rough. Shake it off and go back and play. Sometimes when it feels like they were rough-housing too much, playing too hard, and tears show up, I say, “Okay hug each other.” Which they never do. I don’t know what to do, but I’m also not looking for a solution to something that feel so integral to being siblings. Most siblings fight. The fighting then the sharing and being kind beings then fighting because someone is breathing too hard.
Nathan and TJ are lucky because they are only four years apart. My siblings were so old, their tricks were smarter and cut deeper. Like my sister telling me I was adopted and then providing a fake adoption certificate because she worked at the courthouse and could put a seal on a dumb piece of paper that said I was found in a dumpster and then adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Concepcion. I’m lucky I’m breaking up fights over video games, not providing DNA tests to prove paternity. I don’t need mouth swabs for that, I can just flash my stretch-marked stomach to these doubting kids and hiss, “YOU. DID. THIS. TO. ME.”
My kids fight and make up and love and grit their teeth and complain and whimper and jump into our bed and every day we continue this magical life where even a bathtime photo will start a civil war. It’s not so bad.