When I was younger I always wanted a brother. We'd play football in the garden, wrestle on the floor, and then when we were older we'd look out for each other at school and tell one another secrets about which girls we fancied.
But I didn't have a brother. Instead, I had two sisters who regularly beat me at fights, were better at football than I was, and who weren't great at keeping secrets.
Fast-forward about 20 years and I have two sons of my own who are just under three years apart in age, and I'm beginning to see the things I longed for manifest themselves in my children.
At three years old, Noah's vocabulary is extensive enough that he and Isaac, who's six, can have conversations, which mostly consist of who is playing on the Nintendo DS next. When they're not having conversations they're usually arguing; but in a way it's nice to watch, as they both stake out their boundaries and end up in some kind of tense negotiation/fist-fight.
Arguments were one of the things I wished I had a brother for, strangely, because what I imagined happening was my brother and I getting into a huge fight and then when we made up (or were forced to by our parents) we would end up actually being closer friends than we were before.
But, despite spending most of their time at each other's throats, my two boys already have the beginnings of what I hope will be a lifelong friendship. This is most evident in a unique strategy I have to end an argument between them both: I simply start picking on one of them.
Suddenly, they go from being at loggerheads to joining forces against me. For example: say they are arguing over which television channel to watch, and things are beginning to get heated.
"I want to watch CBeebies!" yells Noah, tears brimming in his eyes. "Mr Bloom is on!" Unsurprisingly, this means my wife is also voting for CBeebies.
"No, Noah!" screams Isaac, wrenching the remote out of Noah's grasp. "CBeebies is boring! I want to watch CITV!"
Time to step in. I walk up to Isaac and start playfully shoving him a bit, perhaps knocking the remote out of his hand. Suddenly, Noah doesn't care about CBeebies - all he wants to do is defend his brother.
"GET OFF HIM, DADDY!" he bellows, pulling at my arm with a surprising amount of strength. "THAT'S MY BROTHER!"
I pull away and sit down, smug in the knowledge that I've successfully defused a potentially explosive situation and proud of the fact that my sons are already looking out for each other at such a young age. They've long forgotten what they were arguing about, and Noah will have his head on Isaac's shoulder as they both stare wide-eyed at the TV.
I hope this brotherly love that they share never ends. Finally, I'm experiencing what I'd wished for all those years ago, and it's beautiful to watch.
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