My two sons, Emar and MD, were born only 13 months apart. We did not have enough time to enjoy Emar as our only child, in the same way that he was not given the chance to be the sole recipient of our undivided love and attention. So, understandably, we feared that MD’s arrival could somehow trigger an antagonistic, or at the very least, a negative reaction from our firstborn. We were bracing ourselves for the worst.
And so, it was a pleasant and most welcome surprise when Emar instantly received and accepted his new brother with so much love.
He was, and still is, a loving, caring, supportive and protective kuya (big brother) to MD. But, their relationship did not stop there. Over the years, they have become each other’s best friends. They discover the world together, they play together, they goof around together, they hatch diabolical plans together, they do stuff together and they mercilessly torment Lala together. They share so many things in common – clothes, toys, room, gadgets, shoes, secrets, appetite, hobbies, interests, sense of humor, the joystick and the remote control. They can incessantly talk to each other (sometimes even using a language that only they can understand!) like two long-time friends who have not seen each other for quite a while. Not unlike with what my husband and I sometimes do, they can finish each other’s sentences and laugh at some private joke only the two of them are privy to. Their mere presence could considerably lift each other’s sullen moods. Needless to say, they are kindred spirits who truly enjoy the company of one another.
Emar continues to relish his role as a big brother to MD as much as he treasures his friendship with him. MD, on the other hand, has learned to regard his kuya with some semblance of respect (quite a feat when he knows all of Emar’s weaknesses and darkest secrets!), to look up to him as his role model, and to be openly vocal of his pride for and to take pleasure in his kuya’s every accomplishment.
Naturally, they also have their moments of juvenile antagonism, sibling rivalry, heated arguments, and petty quarrels. They sometimes tell on each other, especially when they have issues about their designated household chores. But, it’s amazing how they can kiss and make up in a flash, their earlier conflict completely forgotten, and proceed on making deals, concessions or compromises to avoid a similar situation in the future.
When they were younger, they were comfortable with physical contacts such as hugging, tickling, whispering, poking, and placing one’s arm over the other’s shoulders. But, now that they are both in the awkward stage of adolescence, their physical connection has become limited to back-patting, hand-raising in a high five, and wrestling. As a mother, these little gestures of affection (yes, even the wrestling!), along with the sound of their muffled whispers, boisterous laughter, and relentless teasing, and the sight of their ear-splitting grins and conspirational smiles never fail to tug at my heartstrings.
But like any other relationship, theirs has been tested and has only grown stronger and more solid over time.
When MD was in pre-school, for instance, he was bullied by his classmates because he had a big voice. As a result, he wouldn’t talk in school nor would he play with his classmates. Emar, on the other hand, was the friendly and more sociable one so he was always surrounded by friends. But never once did he make MD feel left out. He took him under his young wing and would bring his little brother with him whenever he would play with his peers. He didn’t mind that MD, like his loyal shadow, would follow him around.
During kiddie parties, MD would opt to stay in a corner and just watch other kids having fun. Emar would try to coax his brother to join in the games and when his power of persuasion would fail him, he would try to win all the prizes and offer them to his siblings. MD also became close with his cousins because he was constantly tagging along with his Kuya Emar.
Now that I think about it, I am convinced that MD wouldn’t be the socially healthy and confident young man that he is now if not for the love, generosity and patience that Emar painstakingly showered upon him.
Years after, when Emar first broke the news to us that he got himself a girlfriend, MD was, I think, secretly more devastated than I was. Like me, he also felt betrayed and feared what that development would mean to our household. But thanks to the many activities that they enjoy doing together especially on weekends, they were back in each other’s arms in no time. Now, MD also has a romantic partner of his own (The story of having all our teenaged kids dating is for another blog post!) but they always find time to have their daily dose of brotherly connection.
Looking at them now always makes my heart swell with so much love and pride. Emar, who would turn 20 in a month, and MD 19 in two months, may look more like fully-grown men now. But however old they may get, however big they may grow and wherever life may take them, I will forever keep in my heart the memory of my two beautiful boys who, by chance, have become brothers, but by choice, have become the best of friends.