Each year as the boys get older I wonder which kind of Summer we're going to have: the one where two brothers get along in perfect harmony and play peacefully together from sunrise to sunset (stop laughing!), or the other variety, where there is more petty bickering, and picking on each other, and arguing about absolutely ridiculous things than you would normally see on The Real World (come to think of it, we've ONLY had the latter kind, but at least it's the PG version, no bleeping out the bad words, or bloody fistfights...yet).
This year Derek is 10, and experimentally dipping his toes into those murky pre-teen waters. I've discovered since school let out that this age comes with a growing ability to skillfully and effectively push your little brother's buttons. Derek seems to be enjoying exercising this newfound power, and figuring out just how far he can go before either Riley bursts into tears or Mom yells at him to knock it off. Just yesterday, he scored his first hit of the morning by refusing to give Riley a hug when he asked for one. Naturally Riley's sensitive feelings were hurt, and when I asked Derek (with exasperation, through gritted teeth--it was not yet 8:30 in the morning after all) why he couldn't just hug his brother, for crying out loud, he shot back, with a smart-alecky smirk, "hugs are unsanitary." (deep breathing, imagining my happy place...it's not working...)
But then there are times when they show that they do still appreciate their brotherly bond--like when they have "Brother Sleepovers" in each others' rooms and we can hear them chuckling after the lights go out (for all I know, they're regaling each other with their extensive repertoire of fart jokes, but hey, I don't have to listen, for once, so it's all good!) Or when they collaborate on Wii Guitar Hero to rock "We Are the Champions" (mohawked wild-man Riley banging the drums, more conservative buzz-cut Derek calmly working the guitar). Or even when they assign themselves international soccer player personas and relive World Cup games in the living room (Derek scoring goals, Riley blocking shots...Mom assigning Red Cards as necessary).
These moments--sandwiched in between the "Derek's being mean" and the "Riley's cheating" and the "I'm never playing with him again!"--give me hope that the boys will eventually develop a mature, non-confrontational brother relationship and enjoy each others' company most of the time. Or is that notion just as mythical as leprechauns and unicorns? Excuse me, I'm going back to my happy place...