A friend of mine with many children posted the following on her facebook status the other day: "Siblings are a bad idea, best to keep the numbers low." Her message was intended as a tongue and cheek statement, but i have to say i could have expressed the sentiment myself once or twice.
Henry and Silas have an extremely close relationship which currently consists of playing really nicely or enjoying each others company 35% of the time and being upset about something the other is doing 65% of the time. JT thinks my percents are off, but i think that if i sat down with a clip-board and a timer for a day i'd be pretty close.
Beyond simply playing together, you get occasional glimpses of loyalty. In the moment though, this devotion is hard to appreciate because it usually surfaces when one of the boys is getting in trouble. If Silas has been told he can't have a treat, suddenly Henry is yelling at us to let Silas have a treat and to stop being "mean" to his brother. Hopefully standing up for each other will develop into broader personality traits as they get older, for now it's one of those things you try hard not to laugh about.
I know i've posted a lot about the difficulties we've gone through in the last six months with Silas. And i wasn't making those difficulties up. But, as Silas seemed to hit an upswing, Henry went on the downhill. What i came to realize though was how much "milder" any episodes were when you were dealing with just one child. It really does make a difference, at least for our boys, to have both of them at the same time while you're trying to discipline, encourage, or comfort.
I find that if someone gets wild, the other one gets wild, that if someone starts misbehaving, you suddenly have two monkeys jumping on the couch. If someone gets a timeout and begins wailing as if the world is ending, the other one will join in (and sometimes make himself genuinely upset) just because of all that negative energy in the room. With one, you usually have a bad moment, address the situation and move on.
This helped me understand that Silas probably wouldn't seem as challenging if he had been our first or was an only. I also think that Henry's behavior issues now seem so much worse than when he started experimenting with bad behavior between 2-3, because now he has an audience egging him on.
People talk about how the move from 2-3 kids is easier than 1-2. In this area i can see why. The whole dynamic changes with two. I am promising to keep an open mind about why all this sibling strife is worth it. People tell me strong bonds can emerge and i've certainly seen siblings with enviable relationships. But i'll continue to tell people feeling bad about having an only what a great situation that can be too!