This week I was struck by a realization.
My three boys are friends.
This may seem simplistic and silly but in actuality - it isn't.
When my kids were all much younger - they were friends too. But there was a rough patch in between then and now that I didn't know if they would ever speak to each other after they'd left the house.
There was rivalry. Jealousy. Competitive moments. But more than anything -- there was alot of testosterone. Testosterone does funny things. I mean apart from deeper voices and fuzzy legs. It suddenly causes your son to begin to physically challenge every being around him to any and all contests that they can think of. From arm wrestling to wagering on who can spit the furthest. It is the most barbaric display of strength and survival of the fittest that I've ever seen.
My home became the clash of the titans. Challenge after challenge was thrown down. Older brother to younger brother. Younger brother to older brother. And even the dreaded son to father. (Those were the worst.) Mostly because my perfectly mature and sane husband would soon become the same muscle flexing, arm wrestling, bet making mentality as the children.
We had a period of time that it escalated. Caused hard feelings. Anger. A constant state of turmoil. Son #1 fought to hold onto his position of hierarchy by birth while Son #2's lot in life became to overthrow Son #1 at all costs. I remember distinctly worrying and thinking, "Why can't we all just get along?" I thought back to the days when they would play Matchbox cars together or build forts in the family room and fill our home with shrieks of laughter. But I learned we had entered into a new realm. There would be no turning back.
I would separate them. Yell, fuss and send them to their rooms. I would lecture about how they should love each other and be kind...
Then I figured it out.
This past summer Son #3 turned thirteen. I've seen this age before. Three times to be exact. Twice in boys. The magic switch is flipped and the precious, sweet boy you had is suddenly entertaining the neighborhood with all of those things that mortify you. But this time - I did not fear.
Scenario: The other evening Son #3 approaches Son #2 (who just turned 16 this week and happens to be a high school wrestler ranked in the top ten of our state.)
Son #3 shouts at Son #2:
"HEY! You wanna fight?!"
"What? What did you say to me?"
(He begins a rapid beeline straight for Son #3.)
Son #3 begins running backwards and shrieking --
"Never mind! I didn't say anything!"
Son #2 with his chest puffed out and fist drawn back says,
"That's what I thought."
Son #2 turns to walk away.
Son #3 from the safety of the couch shouts,
"Hey, where are you going, TURD?"
Which sends Son #2 promptly back to Son #3.
He grabs him by the ankle and starts the banter...
"Take it back! I'm going to destroy you."
Now I've observed this scenario long enough to know now that it will not end here. It will not even end if I intervene and demand that they stop.
I watch Son #2 and Son #3 begin the Testosterone Tango.
Jabs in the arm.
Then I hear footsteps coming up from the basement.
That's right. Son #1 has used his teenage testosterone sensory abilities and from behind the locked door of his bedroom in the basement was able to feel that the Testosterone Tango was being performed without him. His own testosterone is then triggered to participate driven by the thought that he as the oldest brother will dominate the others.
I continue to sit on the couch, curled up in the corner pretending not to be aware.
But before anyone can truly do any physical harm to the others - they all break into a round of put downs. I sit and listen, thinking to myself that this sure does sound like a scene from a Welcome Back Kotter episode. I wait for someone to shout - "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" Listening to the inappropriate remarks - I pretend to not notice.
I've learned by now that the more intervention I do during these escapades the more it will escalate as they see me as an audience for which to perform. My interference is the real problem.
My interference means someone is going to be in trouble. Fingers are pointed. Blame is cast. Suddenly I am trying to decipher whose actions or words were worse.
But if I sit quietly and monitor the situation without participation - it will disarm itself quickly.
The truth is - it's all normal.
It's clean fun.
Each trying to puff their chest out further than the other.
How do I know that this will be okay?
No one is angry.
No one is crying.
No one is really going to hurt anyone.
EVERY thing is said and done with a smile on their faces.
The truth is they love each other completely and totally.
They would be there for each other at the drop of a hat.
They are as real and honest a friendship as they've each ever had.
They know each other inside and out.
Like nobody outside this house ever could.
They've seen each other at their best and at their very lowest moments.
There is something very special that bonds them.
I could imagine them older. With families. Returning for Christmas dinners in their red sweaters.
Recalling stories of the past.
Poking at each other.
All grown up.
P.S. As I just sent this blog to my website - Son #3 just turned to my husband and said, "You wanna fight?"