One of my favorite photos of my kids was taken when my son was four and my daughter was two.
They are sitting side by side, with their backs to the camera, playing in the sand on the beach. She’s wearing a pink sun hat and he’s wearing an orange fisherman’s hat. While you can’t see it from the picture, I snapped the photo because my heart swelled as I watched them quietly share their sand toys without words.
I remember that day clearly, too. It had been a hassle to make it to the beach with two toddlers and it wasn’t a particularly warm day, either. But, my husband and I decided to make the most of our beach vacation and we hauled sand toys, blankets, snacks and two squirmy toddlers to the beach.
As we settled in for the afternoon, both kids gravitated towards each other. They sat side by side and wordlessly traded sand shovels and buckets, each seeming to know instinctively what the other was going to need next. They were both engrossed with their own sand project and yet, they were a team.
I watched them that day and wondered if they’d always be that in tune with each other.
I snapped that photo not only to savor that moment but to preserve the memory for them, too. Almost as if I was assuring myself that I’d be able to prove to them, and myself, that they were close as babies.
Of course, those toddlers have grown into teenagers who bicker over bathroom time and control of the remote control.
And there are days when I wonder where those sweet sand playing babies went, especially when I hear bedroom doors slammed in anger.
I worry that their teenage years will drive a wedge between them, that they won’t realize that they will need to cling to each other in those years after their father and I are gone.
I worry that they don’t appreciate the strong bond that siblings bring to their life as my brothers have become the two men in my life who will never let me forget what I looked like with bad hair and braces.
When I hear them fussing over who has the right to sit in the front passenger seat or who should be allowed to pick the family movie night movie, I quietly pray that their differences won’t slowly crack the veneer of that bond they forged as toddlers on the beach.
Each little disagreement, every snide comment uttered with a teenaged eye roll and every hurt feeling leaves me to wonder if I’m doing everything I can to make sure my two kids realize how important siblings really are.
In those moments, when I am worried that my kids will drift apart and not grow up close as adults, I focus on those moments where they show me that their hearts remember, even if their mouths say otherwise.
When my son reminds me that we are out of a my daughter’s favorite yogurt, the one she loves in her lunchbox, my heart smiles.
When my daughter notices the perfect gift for my son, six months before Christmas, I realize she doesn’t hate him for borrowing her ear buds as much as she announced earlier in the day.
When my husband and I arrive home from date night and find them huddled in a small section of the couch, each peering into a share iPad as they laugh about YouTube videos, I catch glimpses of the toddlers who used to share their sand buckets.
And, recently, when we took a family vacation to Florida, they were appalled that we gave them the option of having their own bedrooms on this trip.
“But we always share a room,” they cried.
And, my son, sheepishly admitted that he feels better when his sister is in the twin bed next to him, in the room they’ve shared at their grandparents’ house since their toddler days.
Of course, there was bickering over my son’s messy ways and my daughter’s book light use late at night. And they argued over who ate the last ice cream treat in my mother in law’s refrigerator and about splashing each other too much in the pool.
But, on our last day of vacation, I looked up from my beach chair and caught the sight of the two of them wading into the water, side by side, deep in conversation.
Their backs were to me, their teenaged frames in silhouette against the deep blue of the sky, each seeming to know that the other needed to talk about their day. I knew the moment was fleeting and, as I reached for my camera to capture the moment, I smiled to myself.
They are close and I don’t have to prove it to myself anymore.
Christine Burke is the Keeper of the Fruit Loops, Manager of the Fecal Roster and Driver of the People Mover. In other words, she’s a mom. An Erma Bombeck Martha Stewart with a Roseanne Barr twist, she has the mouth and organized cabinets to prove it. She resides in Pennsylvania with her ever budget conscious husband, two blog inspiring Fruit Loops and her extensive collection of thrift shop shoes. In her spare time, she runs marathons and drinks cheap wine to cope with it all. Her personal blog is Keeper of the Fruit Loops