A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17


Almost two years ago, when that obstetrician pulled a slimy, little baby from my insides and declared it to be a boy, I was delirious—I hadn’t slept in almost twenty-three hours and C-sections are no joke.


But after a moment or two, I was thrilled. For Nate.


Sure, for a split second, I mourned my dream of a daughter—what would I do with a girl anyway? I don’t even know how to comb my own hair, let alone that of a spoiled toddler. And dolls, dance class, skirts? Terrifying.


And so, I celebrated that Nate would have a brother. Brothers are the best!


They tell it like it is. They call you on your B.S. They fight you and make you tougher. Not like sisters. They won’t go all menses on you every month. They won’t steal your boyfriends or husbands—ok, most won’t. They won’t steal your clothes or your make-up…never mind, I’m going to stop this line of thought—it sounds very judgmental and I’d like to create a #safe space. My point is brothers are cool, I like having brothers.


So, back to Nate and Sam being brothers.


After a few weeks of jealousy and adjusting to sharing attention with a small bundle that was about as exciting as a sack of flour, Nate and Sam became best friends. And of course, they also became worst enemies.


First thing in the morning, once Nate manages to break into our bedroom, he announces that he’s going to wake up Sam. When he comes home from school in the afternoon and Sam’s still an hour or so from rising from his nap, Nate complains—he misses him. At bedtime, they hug and kiss and tell one another they love each other.


And then they shove each other to the ground as they scramble to squeeze in one more race down the hallway before we drag them to their respective bedrooms.


And in case you were wondering, Nate always wins. Even when Sam actually eeks out a victory, Nate still declares himself the winner. Nate’s always right. We always watch the shows that Nate wants to watch, the books Nate wants to read, and visit the playgrounds that Nate approves. In fairness, some of this is due to Nate’s dominance, some is due to Sam’s reverence of Nate, and some is just because Sam’s not always able to verbally express himself.


Nate tells Sam which Ninja Turtle is Sam’s favorite and then smacks him on top of his head if he so much as glances at Raph, Nate’s favorite.


I walk a fine line between letting them wrestle it out and intervening. It’s a lot like American foreign policy. On one hand, non-intervention will help them develop skills in conflict resolution, treaties, détentes, concords, etc. Add a third child and we’re talking alliances as well.


On the other hand, saving one or the other—and sometimes both—from extreme blood loss and blunt force trauma to the head, saves me a trip to the ER. For this level of conflict, I’ll send in my ground troops.


If the conflict’s in my “hemisphere,” I’m also likely to intervene. Or if the feud messes with my resources, like they’re about to knock over my coffee, I’ll order an urgent drone strike.


Just this afternoon, as they were racing around the house on their small cars, I heard a bang. Then a whimper. Then the whimper graduated to a wail. From my chair in the dining room, I craned my neck to see them in the kitchen.


“Uh…uh, sorry Sam! Sorry!” Nate was addressing Sam yet looking at me, just the right amount of trepidation in his eyes.


But Sam can hold his own. I’ve seen him bring Nate to tears many, many times. And then he smirks and puts himself in time-out on the bottom step.


Nate’s stronger, but Sam uses weapons. Usually, it’s just a plastic golf club or a hockey stick or one of the many other pieces of sporting equipment he’s dragging around the first floor of our house. But I’ve also seen him use a drumstick or a Lego or a wooden puzzle piece. At the proper angle, those things will leave a convincing indentation in Nate’s youthful, malleable skin.


And when the world is at peace, Nate shares and teaches Sam how to do things: how to climb out of his crib, where the free samples are in the store, and how to con adults out of their food. Keeping this foreign policy analogy, it’s like a first-world country sending aid to a developing country. Sure, it’s a little condescending and imperialistic, but people get food and medical treatment, right?


They play down in the basement amiably for hours at a time. I don’t know what they’re doing down there, but the point is they’re quiet and out of my way. They could be planning a jewel heist or the overthrow of a communist dictator. And speaking of the 39th parallel, I’m pleased to announce that the Urinal just got banned in North Korea.


My favorite brother-related ritual is probably when we’re in public and Nate introduces Sam to someone: a new friend at the playground, a dog-walker strolling down our street, or a cashier at the grocery store. Actually, sometimes he even introduces Sam to me. It’s weird.


“Well, I’m Nate. And this is my little brother, Sam! He’s one.”


And he uses hand gestures, like he’s a model unveiling a new car on the Price is Right’s showcase showdown. The new friends aren’t usually quite that excited, though. It’s usually just a casual “nice to meet you.”


And just as Bob Barker made a hobby of ending the lineage of countless dogs and cats, I’ll end this post here. It sounds like it might be time for one of my drone strikes.