Monday, May 18, 2009

Brothers and Boys

Does having brothers prepare you for having boys?

Most of our readers (44%) said yes. Of course, 22% said no and another 22% said they don't have brothers, so it's not exactly an overwhelming conclusion.

I grew up with 4 brothers (and 1 sister). So on the one hand, boys come naturally to me. I grew up surrounded by boys, belching and the occasional brouhaha. If I'd grown up with an army of sisters, perhaps this boy-saturated household of mine would feel completely foreign.

And yet...I was one of those who answered, "I'm not sure." The one way I'm absolutely, positively certain having brothers prepared me for having sons is that my Mom has long recognized boys' need for movement. I can't tell you how many times I heard her tell my brothers, "Just go outside and run around the house!" And you know what? I use that one too.

Beyond that, though, I'm not sure. We grew up in a pretty restrictive household, so my brothers weren't into a lot of typically boy stuff. No guns or gun play allowed. No tree climbing. And extremely limited access to the creek just behind our house.

In many ways, I think my brothers are more beneficial to me NOW. Now that I have 4 boys, my brothers are an invaluable resource. My 4 brothers, all very different people, provide my sons glimpses into various forms of manhood. My 4 brothers, each with different talents and skills and interests, can relate to and teach my boys in a way I never could. And my 4 brothers inevitably end up on the floor wrestling my boys.

I long ago recognized the value in play fighting. For my boys, it's a chance to test their strength against an adult male they know and love. For my brothers, it's a valuable way to connect with their nephews (and a chance for them to reassure themselves that they are still top of the pack!). For me, it's a welcome break. :)

My brothers are also an essential part of my sons' "third family," a term coined by Micheal Gurian that refers to boys' need to be surrounded by a community of caring adults. As important as Mom and Dad are, boys need more than that. As Gurian writes in The Purpose of Boys, "Boys are such exploeres and so filled with energy and imagination...that they need both close-up contact with their nuclear family parents and wide-lens intimacy and experiences guided by a set of other 'family members' who provide significant help."

Does having brothers help me raise sons? You betcha.

What's your experience? How has having brothers (or not) prepared you (or not) for raising boys?


  1. We weren't allowed to climb trees?

  2. Sounds like a handsome group of uncles.

  3. My 3 brothers were very much boys. They did hunting, some fishing and lots of wrestling(even with me).

  4. My kids seem to reverse the gender stereotypes, so much of this just isn't applicable. However, having grown up with a load of sibling rivalry between older sister (me) and younger brother, I'm very concerned about promoting a caring relationship between the two. You could say I'm an expert on the plight of the younger brother, from the viewpoint of the mean older sister.

  5. Sandra,
    That whole thing about promoting a caring relationship is indeed a challenge! How do you and your brother get along now? Living that situation, what did you learn that helps you now as you parent your two children?
    Hmm...this could make an interesting guest blog post. Are you interested?