Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Redemptive Motherhood

Look at Your Brother

Welcome, sweet friends, and thank you for spending a few minutes to check out my 2017 Write 31 Days series: Redemptive Motherhood. I hope this glimpse into my motherhood journey makes you laugh and cry (the good kind of tears). I hope to surprise and delight you with the stories of these tender years, and I hope that if something you find here sparks a question or makes you curious about some part of my journey, that you will send me a personal note to connect. Thanks for reading.

If you ask me, the pecking order of siblings, the constant bickering and squabbling over tiny things is a torturous way to sort out your place in the world. Or maybe it just tortures mothers. At any rate, I have two sons that are adept at finding the one thing that will make the other squeal in protest at the injustice committed against them, and this exchange happens multiple times a day, most days at our house.

For many years now, I have been conflicted about how to handle this scenario with them. It drives me bonkers, so most of the time simply letting them sort it out isn’t an option. After all, we have mama’s sanity to think about. I’ve disciplined with time-outs, assigning chores, loss of privileges, and many other things but nothing seems to get us to a point where they will actually regard each other with respect. It wears on me, patience-wise, but it also saddens me to see my boys–who are surrounded by a loving family–push, shove, and jostle their way to receive what they think they’re entitled to or attempt to have power over each other.

I try to think about what is going on under the surface, asking myself why their immature minds always seem convinced that, “if I want to be top dog, I have to step on the face of the other guy.” I know that some of what is going on is normal–and maybe even good for them as they learn how to navigate giving and taking, sharing and setting boundaries under the watchful eyes of parents who care–but earlier this year, they went through a stretch of brother-bickering that had my patience rolled so thin, I was ready to snap.

Both boys come to me, crying–one holding his arm around the bicep, the other with a hand tucked under his arm to shield some kind of minor injury on his trunk. They are at an impasse that has turned physical, and they are each squawking their cases to me about who did what and why their own actions were justified.

I’ve heard it so many times. I take in a deep breath instead of letting my sharply-risen anger out. I ask God for help, because I’m so over this recurring issue cropping up day-in and day-out. I can discipline to modify behavior all day (and often do), but I’ve clearly not been reaching their hearts. Help. What to do?

I’d love to call it a stroke of brilliance, but it is more likely to be attributed to God’s swift answer to my prayer.

“Look at your brother,” I say to both of them sharply. “Turn and look at each other’s faces.”

They shuffle a bit, standing face-to-face about 2 feet apart, each still holding his wound and sporting a low-hanging head and eyes barely lifted to obey my command.

I let an awkward pause hang in the air. One tries to look away.

“Look at your brother,” I repeat. “Look in his eyes. Do you know what an incredible person you are looking at? Do you know what a special thing it is to have a brother?”

They are both reluctant to look, but they oblige me. Stubborn is out to play and we share a few tense moments where I am trying to proceed slowly–looking for a way to their hearts–and they are each trying to decide whether they are going to hold their offenses or set them down.

“Do you see what you have done to your brother?” I ask gently. “Do you know that you guys could be an awesome team that encourages and supports each other instead of fighting all the time?”

More silence. More internal debates worked out on their faces.

“Look at your brother’s goofy smile.”

They both crack and smile and drop their offenses against each other, following with repentance and forgiveness. I explain that each one of them are responsible for their own actions and what they do affects other people, whether or not they think it does.

I will say, I don’t necessarily think this method fixes everything–as evidenced by our still-present brother squabbles–but I do think having to face one’s brother and look him in the eye makes it more difficult to justify one’s own poor behavior. Acknowledging a person’s humanity–and ultimately a person’s value–begins with looking them in the eye.


1411. being done with christmas shopping well before christmas, 1412. mild seattle winter days, 1413. kids making clay crafts, 1414. big baby snuggles, 1415. a night out with my guy, 1416. many voxer friends, 1417. a quiet month of not too many activities, 1418. writing day with a friend, 1419. seeing the generosity of others, 1420. crock pot dinner freedom

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