I’m not a tactile person. I don’t touch people a lot, and I certainly don’t like to be touched a lot by other people. While I do and will hug people I care for, I otherwise possess a personal bubble I would greatly prefer if people would respect.

Exemptions exist, of course. I loved cuddling my babies. I loved nursing. But even some days I would feel totally “touched out” by the end of the day. To this day, they still cuddle into me on the couch. I’m mostly okay with it. I can also handle longer periods of cuddling with my husband. For a bit. You know. I have limits.

My boys have some of my personal space issues. When other kids get too close and in-their-face, their eyes find me. I can read their minds. Sometimes I’ll lend them a hand if the situation seems out of control, but I’ve also watched them back up and handle it fine on their own.

They don’t seem to have touch problems though. At all.

In addition to loving to cuddle THISCLOSE to me at all times, I also say the following phrase eleventy billion times per day: Stop roughhousing.

Sometimes I add in things like, “Keep your body to yourself.” Or, “Don’t lick your brother.” Or, “I don’t care who hit who first.” And so on. All day. Every single day. EVERYSINGLEDAY.

I’ve attempted to understand their need for all the touching. I recognize their need for physical contact. I don’t get it on a personal level because when they want to roughhouse with me or pile on top of me on the couch in a way that isn’t really cuddling and is more like dog piling, I kind of suffocate. I can cuddle. I can’t deflect kicks and hits and fight off the dog and two boys and manage to ward off a panic attack too.

They’re them. I’m me. It’s all good.

I try to give them time to get all their energy and need for contact out of their system. I send them downstairs to roughhouse or play war or tackle each other for no reason. When the weather is cooperative, their outside football games inevitably become some sort of wrestling match. They hit each other with lightsabers and large Nerf swords. I even let them roughhouse upstairs while simultaneously playing with the dog while I huddle in the corner of the couch and hope they don’t touch me. Like so. I say little prayers that they don’t knock out teeth or legitimately hurt each other.

Tonight I spent time with friends—and a ton of boys. Or, six total, including my two.

Within seconds of arriving, the brood set off running through the house. As I sat and talked with my friends, I watched through the doorway and saw boys tackle each other, roll on out of view, and keep on truckin’. All evening. A few tears happened at one point or another, but otherwise they body slammed around for two and a half hours.

When we got home, I looked at BigBrother and saw a scratch under his eye.

“What happened to your eye?”
“Oh, you know. We were just roughhousing.”

This is what they do, apparently. I’m okay with it, mainly because it wasn’t me they tackled tonight. I don’t get it, but I’m glad the boys have each other—and friends—with whom they can crash through life. I’ll be there when they need the cuddles.


Parenting Photography

52 Weeks of Brotherhood: When It’s Hard to Be a Brother (or a Parent)

When It's Hard to Be a Brother
Sometimes they even fight over the dog, you guys.

I’ve written my internal angst regarding the end of summer break.

It’s true: I like having unfettered access to my kids. The rub, however, is that these two boys get tired of constant access to one another as the summer stretches its way through the calendar. To boot, they took turns the entire summer sleeping in each others’ rooms. One night BigBrother’s, the next night LittleBrother’s, and repeat.

You know, save for traveling when they’d share a bed or, at times, a room.

To say each brother felt tired with the other brother classifies as a severe understatement.

Sometimes they acted downright resentful about the presence of their brother. The arguments seemed so plentiful, if they were tomatoes in my garden, I could have made enough sauce to last us two summers of tomatoes. About everything. About nothing. About anything.

Even if one brother felt his words or actions were of the helpful kind, the other brother was already on the defensive, unable to receive anything, let alone kindness.

They were in bad shape.

And us, as the parents? Well, we wore out. We hit a level of exhaustion that can only be defined as Out of Mmmphs to Give. Straight outta Mmmphs. Or, you know, whatever other word you wanna insert there, because all of ’em.

After my husband laid down the law in a not-quite-yell but louder-than-daddy-usually-talks over dinner two nights before school started, they both came to me later with sad little faces. Morose even. Because Daddy doesn’t yell, even less than Mommy. So they knew the jig was up.

I went on to explain that Daddy needed to say what he said because, glory be, sons, we’re tired. Exhausted. I used all those words, even glory be, which probably confused them, but I didn’t want to say what I was thinking in that moment of calm explanation. Their sad eyes got a bit bigger, a bit sadder. I didn’t berate either of them, didn’t point fingers, but they don’t like to upset us. Yet. I mean, they’re not teenagers. Yet.

And so yesterday rolled around, and the back-to-school morning went splendidly, and I did the stupid thing and wrote about how splendidly it went.

So then this morning, as we attempted to get out the door at the required time and the boys started to argue because one brother dared to help the other brother with a knot in his shoe, I straight up lost it. I yelled. You think there were sad eyes the other day when Daddy simply stated that this nonsense needed to stop, here and now, immediately? Pfft.

There’s a reason I try not to yell. And it’s because I can yell.

The arguing ceased. Sniffles commenced. And I felt like a jagoff. A jagoff who wasn’t yet caffeinated on the second day of school because the FLIPPIN’ COFFEE POT WOULDN’T MAKE ANY FLIPPIN’ COFFEE.


So I took four deep breaths before I poured myself into the driver’s seat of the car and began apologizing before I even backed out of the garage. BigBrother took it personally, mainly because LittleBrother did what he’s now prone to do and kind of blamed everything on his older brother. Because naturally. And again, I explained how tired we feel that they can’t stop fighting.

And instead of apologizing to me?

They apologized to each other. And then made plans for what they were going to do after school.

So then I felt like a bigger jagoff.

They happily talked the rest of the way to school, and I can report, with over an hour home since school, they haven’t argued once despite wanting to play with the same toy. They’re taking turns with a friend over. Well huh.

I need to remember that siblings will fight, summer break will end, and this phase, whatever it is, will pass. Until then, I’ll just be over here, taking four deep breaths, over and over again, because I’m probably supposed to model the behavior I want my children to display.

I don’t know which is harder: Parenting or brotherhood. Oh wait. Yes, I do.