Yesterday was a big day. It may have seemed like nothing much to the rest of the world, but it was huge for Kendal and me. Our oldest two children, Hannah and J.W, are the classic definition of sibling rivalry. All you have to do to motivate one is make it a competition with the other. Who can run the fastest, who can throw the farthest, which got further in the spelling bee, which made it to the next round of the speech meet. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good, healthy competition…I believe it is one of the driving forces that makes us strive to be better and become excellent at what we do. However, there comes a time when you have to stop competing, appreciate each other’s abilities, and even cheer for your rival, especially when they are family.
That last line is the hard part for Hannah and her brother. They just can’t seem to turn it off. The challenge for their parents is to give them each their own identity, encourage them both individually, and help them come together as members of the same family. While those three statements sound like lofty and righteous goals, they often come out sounding like, “You two quit arguing and get along!” “Stop annoying each other and hug for 30 seconds, NOW!” Or, my personal favorite, “If y’all want to compete with each other so badly, see who can clean up their room and take out the trash the fastest, while playing the quiet game.” There is no secret sauce to raising children. It requires love, patience and consistency…oh, and a lot of prayer, not to mention team work from both parents. Bottom line, it’s a lot of work.
But then there are those moments when the work is rewarded. That’s what happened yesterday. I got home from work and life was normal. All four kids were loud and full of life. We ate dinner, sent the kids out to play, and Kendal and I tag-teamed the kitchen.
“How did your day go?” I asked.
“You’ll never guess what happened today at the store.”
“What?!?” the paternal nerves were getting anxious.
“J.W. and Hannah were walking in front of me in the parking lot, and on the way back to the car, he took her by the hand. He wanted to protect her from the traffic, and she let him.”
Nerves were replaced by a surge of proud dad. It may not seem like that much to you, but my kids held hands. They took care of each other. They were not commanded to. They were not put on notice to do it or else. They simply responded to the constant encouragement that they get from Mom and Dad to take care of the family. That’s huge!
As a father, one of the most important things in my life is knowing that my children will watch out for each other. If Mom and Dad can’t be there, then the next best thing is knowing your brother or sister has your back. If they can learn how to do it when they are young, then it will be a habit when they are older and it really matters.
I will be the first to tell you that there are few things in this world that can drain you faster than family, and nothing in this world is as rewarding. I don’t know what your challenge is at the moment. You may be weaning a newborn, potty training a toddler, teaching elementary manners, or pulling your hair out with a teenager…but don’t quit doing the right thing. Stay consistent with love, instruction and an example they can follow. They’ll get there. Believe me, I know. Because, yesterday, they finally held hands.