I’m Slowly Discovering That the Greatest Gift I Gave My Children Was Each Other

The greatest gift our parents ever gave us was each other. — Unknown

My adult daughter and almost adult son had an epic fight on Mother’s Day Eve. He was angry because a friend told him a girl he liked wasn’t interested in him. For some teens, that news might roll off their backs, but my son took it to mean he was a loser, unworthy of anyone’s love. In his mind, it was a sign that he would be alone forever.

His sister tried to help, but as he persevered in his frustration, she told him that he had anger issues and needed to get them under control. We learned years ago from our son’s therapist that EVERYONE has anger issues. It’s an unpleasant emotion; no one enjoys being angry.

My daughter has always struggled with my son. (Twenty20 @christinahelenb)

Everyone, including my son, has anger issues

To call someone out as having issues with something that we all struggle with is unfair and inaccurate. I tried explaining this to my daughter so I could diffuse the situation. At the same time, I told my son to breathe and to go to his room where he could feel his feelings in peace. He didn’t listen.

My daughter yelled that I was in denial and that he was “not normal,” which only caused my son to explode further, screaming awful things at her; thankfully, at least it was from a distance. Nevertheless, she felt threatened and said she was leaving because she was “unsafe.”

I stupidly tried to stop her, which I later regretted because, even though I wanted her to stay, I was proud of her for protecting herself.

Mother’s Day was ruined, and certainly not my best parenting moment

“Great,” I snarled, “Mother’s Day is ruined.”

Not my best parenting moment; the entire evening was my worst. I texted my husband, who was out, and he immediately came home and spoke calmly to our son.

Our son spent most of the night expressing remorse over what he screamed at his sister; he knew it was pretty bad. He admitted he would never hurt her and just wanted her to stop talking and, at that moment, didn’t have the right words to express that appropriately.

My son sent his sister an apology text

He has always struggled with this and has made huge strides, except for his sister, who pushes his buttons and is likely the one who installed them. He sent her a well-thought-out, heartwarming text she read while spending the night with her grandparents.

According to her, it was “too well written,” so I must have been the one who wrote it. When she came home the next day, she realized she had underestimated her brother’s ability to express remorse.

My son, husband, and I discussed the importance of continued therapy to work through challenging feelings. It was very productive, and we could see a way forward.

Mother’s Day was somewhat resuscitated, but my daughter was very cool towards my son, and when he tried to engage her in conversation, she gave one-word answers. I didn’t blame her. She’d had years of having to recover from her brother’s behavior, whether it be his anger or getting into trouble at school, with classmates giving her a hard time about it.

My daughter has always had to deal with her brother’s issues

We live in a town where everyone knows everything, which has always been hard on us. She’s been away at school the last two years and hasn’t seen all the progress he’s made or the support he’s been given by us and everyone at his wonderful high school.

The week went on typically, and on Wednesday, my daughter decided to pick up my son from school, and together they went to my parent’s house for a visit. Shortly after, he received a phone call from his cousin, who informed them that his friend’s younger sister died from a drug overdose. Both of them were shocked, but my son was devastated and inconsolable. He didn’t know the 15-year-old girl but was heartbroken for her brother.

I called my son, and through his tears, he said, “I can’t imagine what he’s going through; this is so awful, it doesn’t seem real.”

“I know,“ I replied, “I’m so sorry. Do you want me to meet you at Grandma and Grandpa’s?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I’m taking a walk, but I’ll meet you back there.”

I arrived first, and he walked in a few minutes later and sobbed in my arms. His sister asked him, “What can I do for you? Are you hungry?”

“Yes,” he sniffled, “I want a hamburger.” “Sure,” she soothingly responded, “I’ll take you to ‘In n Out’.”

My daughter went from fear to disappointment to compassion in the way she reacted to her brother

For the next 24 hours, I was in complete awe of my daughter. She had gone from being afraid of her brother to being disappointed to the most compassionate I’ve ever seen her be toward him. Later that evening, he came out of his room and told us he had texted his friend, “I know you want to be left alone, but I wanted you to know how sorry I am and that I’m here for you.”

His sister sweetly said,

“You’re a really good friend.”
“Thanks,” he muttered.

“Hey, do you want to go anywhere, maybe get some ice cream?” she asked; comfort food is the way she shows love.
“I kind of feel like Boba,” he replied.
“You got it, let’s go,” and the two of them were off.

Over the years, I’ve let disturbing thoughts creep into my head about what life would be like for our kids when we are gone, when, someday, they only have each other to remember what they were like as children. How will our sensitive son, who takes so long to warm up to people, function in a world where the two people who love him most only watch over him from above?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered that his sister is the third person who loves him the most. Even when she’s angry with him or struggles to understand him, she will never abandon him, and he will know he can always count on her. In time, I hope he will find ways to support her when she is in need. I know he wants to; he just isn’t quite sure how.

I have faith that she will teach him.

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.

More Great Reading:

When Siblings Don’t Get Along: How To Handle The Heartbreak

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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