Gruff love

I don’t know about you but my two kids quarrel a lot. A whole lot. Sometimes, especially, on a cold winter day, when they have been cooped up in close proximity, they fight about the smirk on one’s face and one breathing too heavily.

“Stop breathing so noisily, it is disturbing me!”

No prizes for guessing if the heavy breathing stops or continues ten fold heavier.

Being an only child, this behavior concerns me. I try different methods to diffuse situations.

I use threats – “If I hear one more sound from either of you then….”

I have discovered, in these last fourteen years of being a mommy, open-ended threats are more ominous than definitive ones. The scary possibilities are endless.

I use cajoling – “Come on guys, you are making it very unpleasant for yourself and me!”

I use didactic approach – “Only the brave can offer the other cheek, don’t you know. Be the brave one. The strong, silent type!”

Sometimes these work, sometimes both the children are sent to their rooms because none of the above tactics worked. Sometimes, I remove myself from the situation and give myself a time out. I refuse to play the referee and when they come to complain, I say, “Both will be punished, if I hear one more word! SORT IT OUT!”

It is important to set the scene written above, to understand this story better, so I took the pains of writing down some facts of the bickering universe I live in.

Sahana was down with a fever for a week. And Ryan’s world collapsed around him. The first day of fever was spent trying to nudge her into action. When that didn’t get any response, the rest of the day was spent in quiet observation as Sahana lay on the couch with tired eyes. The second morning of her fever, he expressed his concern to me, while she was still in bed:

“Do you think Sahana will be OK, mom?” Simple words but loaded with unexpressed fear of loss.

When she woke up and came to the breakfast table, he was finishing up.

“How are you feeling Sahana?” he asked in a voice which seemed to convey ‘I am asking you, but I really don’t care that much’!

“I am ok. My head hurts!” She said.

After a pause, came a gruff offer, “Do you want me to make some breakfast for you?”

Sahana was in the kitchen getting her own food, she said, “That’s ok, bud. I can get mine.”

I mouthed “let him do it” to her and she said, “Ok, Ryan. It would be great if you make my breakfast. Can you make me a Nutella sandwich on toast please!”

He jumped up and made breakfast for his sister. And made the same, the third morning of her sickness as well. I believe he felt he was contributing to her healing.

I heard this next part from Sahana.

The day she felt better she said,”Do you know what your son said to me?”

Supposedly, the evening Sahana had a very high temperature and couldn’t get out of her bed to come to the dinner table, Ryan went to her bedside and offered her a nickel if she would get up from bed and come to the table.

“Sahana”, he said, “I will give you a nickel if you come eat with us at the table!” If any of you readers know Ryan at all, you will realize that offer of nickel was his ultimate show of love and concern for his sister. Ryan doesn’t part with his money easily.

Her fever was too high for her to respond. Once the medicine worked and she felt well enough to tell me the story, she did so with a smile on her face. A smile, because, parting with money to get her sister to resume normalcy is Ryan’s highest form of love.

The love flows underneath. Gruff love, but love nonetheless.

Sahana’s comment about her brother is this:

“Mama, I think Ryan is going to grow up to be that man – big, strong, scruffy looking, who sheds a copious amount of tears at the death of a kitten! He is actually a very nice boy! But I will deny it if you tell him I said this!”

Sahana is fine now and my bickering universe is back with a vengeance. As I write this blog, I hear two angry voices in the background saying:

“Yes you did!”

“No I did not!”





I do believe Anna Quindlan wrote what Sahana will one day say about her brother:

There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother… Oh, how I hated that little boy. And how I love him too.


2 thoughts on “Gruff love

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