There is no glib or clever way to start this posting, so I will just hit you between the eyes: On Valentine's Day, 2010, I lost my brother.
Beth Falkenstein: To say that we were very close does not begin to describe the depth of our connection. And although he had been sick for some time, that did not lessen the shock of waking up on February 15 knowing I would never again hear his voice on the other end of the telephone.
But this isn't about my brother and me. This is about my daughters, and parenting. So I wonder: If children learn by example, how come my two girls don't appear to love each other the way I loved my brother? How come they don't even appear to like each other very much? And is there anything I can do to change that?
I am tempted to sit them down face-to-face and present them with the cold, hard facts -- namely, that one day one of them will die first, leaving the other without the one person on Earth who shares their life history. But that would be a) tactless, b) overly dramatic and c) an invitation for each of them to pray that the other one "wins" the race to cross the mortality finish line.
I also know that lectures are futile. At 14 and 11, the concept of future regret is way beyond them. It didn't work when I tried to tell them about eating junk food and putting on sunscreen -- why should it work when I describe the permanence of death?
I try to find comfort in friends' stories of how they used to fight tooth-and-nail with their siblings and now are inseparable (or at least call each other once a week). But that's no guarantee my girls will take that path. And it's not going to be enough for me that they simply learn to tolerate each other. I want them to seek each other out, respect each other's opinions and take pride in each other's accomplishments.
Perhaps my relationship with my brother has made me less tolerant of anything less than BFFs. Maybe I am too sensitive to even the slightest friction between them. Maybe there is love there, just not in the form I am trained to recognize.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have another brother. He lives on the other side of the country from me. For years, we hardly ever spoke -- and saw each other even less. But this recent tragedy seems to have changed all that.
So I guess miracles can happen, although some may take 50 years. One day my daughters may be close ... and I will be dead.
|Beth Falkenstein was a sitcom writer and freelance contributor to Self, Redbook and YM magazines before taking a full-time job in her kitchen. She loves her new bosses (ages 13 and 10) and is grateful that they approve of interoffice romance, because Beth thinks her coworker (Jim, age 45) is really hot.|