I remember a long time ago, the neighborhood boys coming down to our house as the sun came up, carrying baseball bags. I’d have Cool-Aid ready and around lunch, I’d have some hotdogs grilling. One day, a couple of brothers brought their temper with them and started swinging at each other. I just stood there totally out of my element, “What do you do when brothers start fighting and punches start flying?”
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have called their mom – but this was my first foray into Brother fisticuffs. I told their mom, “If they do it again, I’ll turn the water hose on them.” I probably should have done that instead of call. But hindsight is 20/20 and the best responses are often after the fact, especially in areas with little to no experience. I think as punishment for calling that mom, God has made sure all my boys fights have all taken place away from that water hose.
This was my first son’s summer neighborhood group – his brothers were much too young for this yet. I remember thinking, “My boys will never do this.” I thought that a lot in my supercilious superiority. I have since been handily humbled.
Before church one day a few weeks ago, the teen said he wanted to hit his brother – and the minister walked by. The teen asked, “Don’t you think that Jesus fought with his brothers? Afterall, how could you have brothers and not fight?”
I said, “If Jesus was without sin, the perfect sacrifice, he couldn’t have brawled with his brothers.”
And the minister, the father of 3 sons, laughed and declined to answer.
Since only Jesus has been without sin, and, I assume, didn’t haul off and hit his brothers, the rest of the brotherly world and their mothers have to deal with fighting.
After reviewing my experience, I created 3 categories of Brotherly Fighting:
- Wrestling: My two littlest ones would wrestle in the Oval Office of the President – they wrestled everywhere – well, until they became tweens, they wrestled everywhere. Harmless, a bit embarrassing in some venues, but it was much like 2 puppies getting some well-needed exercise. I’m sure it was not an excuse to hug, but I’m sure my mom-heart held onto that thread of hope. Sometimes what started out as high-spirited wrestling escalated into something more serious because some boundary was crossed. Boyish exuberance best describes the typical wrestling category.
- Punching: This typically occurs between teens who are feeling playful but are wanting to inflict pain in an Alpha-Dog kind of way. It can occur in the car, in the kitchen, as they walk downstairs – and they love to mention punching each other in church probably just to see me blanche and how high my eyebrows can rise. It can either be the result of a silly Slug Bug car game – or betting on outcomes, or just plain, “Let’s punch each other in the arm and see who breaks first.” It is more aggressive than wrestling. Boundaries are more clearly defined but they taunt each other to cross them.
- The Big Fights: This usually occurs between the older “young adults” (teens, college age). Though rare, when it happens it is full out, fists flying, wrestling to the ground, testosterone raging, emotion-filled physical aggression. Boundaries were crossed, and it is settling time. This is where you wish you had that water hose handy. Note: In 25 years of parenting, I have only witnessed 1 Big Fight (Maybe more small Big Fights).
The trigger to a any level of fighting is contingent on the length of each individual brother’s fuse, the level of self-control and the desire to exhibit that self-control.
In our house, it seems like most fighting levels occur when Dad isn’t there, which leaves me, the mom, standing there feeling quite e-mom-sculated – meaning mom’s authority in the passion of the BIG FIGHT can do nothing. It is like trying to stop a Tsunami. I just stand helpless wishing they’d take it outside to where the water hose is – then I could release some growing anxiety.
Mom’s are not designed to referee physical aggression. Mom’s are not designed to watch physical aggression. Our nurturing nature is in direct conflict with the male method of settling grievances. Note that this physical method of settling grievances occurs after words between the two parties have failed to produce the desired results: “Stop wearing my clothes” (yes, boys! Sigh!), to “Stop Making that Noise” to whatever is simmering, ready to boil over at the slightest provocation.
Helplessness makes me feel even worse: helpless, impotent, powerless – like a queen who is just a figurehead, wielding no true authority.
The younger tweens have been feeling bullish lately, a lot of pushing and tugging, fingers itching for a swing to get someone out of their space. They came to me, “He hit me,” one said.
“Well, he deserved it,” the other argued.
And they stood in their stance, waiting for me to be the great lady Justice.
“If you’re going to fight, don’t bring it to me. Don’t do it around me. Don’t let me know about it,” I told them. I can’t quite figure if I am wiser or just worn down. “Learn how to settle your differences because you cannot rely on a 3rd party to bring you true justice. . . . Now, give me 50 squats a piece.” (Click here for “The Discipline of Squats)
Their jaws dropped at the injustice of the punishment.
“A mom never wants her sons to fight and if they bring that fight to her, it’s not going to end to your satisfaction,” I said.
Yes, I am at that point. Sure – go ahead and fight but don’t do it around me – and don’t bring it to me to settle. You need to settle it among yourselves.
But I can teach them about the time to fight.
Like when someone messes with your brother.
As they’ve grown, I’ve said, “Even if your brother deserves to be beat up, you don’t let anybody touch him. You can come home and beat him up for it, but don’t let anybody else.”
Blue Cotton Dad – he thinks it’s important that they learn how and when to fight. Maybe that is the benefit of a lot of brothers – you do learn how to defend yourself. The protector is an innate part of being a man – knowing how to wield that inborn trait God instilled is the responsiblity of the parent to teach.
Not all traits are wielded with skill in the beginning – training is required in the hows and whens. Brotherly brawling is the training ground for the noble protector – benefits that grow from the ability to protect yourself and others on the playground, in the classroom, from the bully in the bathroom. The ability to defend yourself often diffuses a bully who wants to assert himself and infringe on the freedoms of those around him.
If guided, nurtured and accompanied by wisdom, these brotherly brawlers grow up to protect the less fortunate and, maybe, protect our Freedom and families.
When brother’s fight, what’s a mom to do? Hope for a handy water hose and continue the effort to instill nobleness of thought and action. Nobody ever said motherhood was an easy gig.