An old sage told me once that if I had one child, I would become a playmate, and if I had two children, I would become a referee.
Well, my sons have now reached the age where my wife and I have become referees.
My sons are three years apart in age.
Once, the younger constantly followed the older.
A number of years ago, my older son, who was about 6 at the time, went through a small bit of brush as we left an art museum in my hometown. My father burst into laughter watching my younger son walk over to the same area and fake a fall to emulate his brother.
Today, our 8-year-old son is struggling to stay relevant to a burgeoning 11-year-old middle-schooler. Although the seemingly constant echoes of chaos are disturbing to my wife's irenic sensibilities, I often assure her that our boys are indeed normal.
In fact, I am all too familiar with the frustration of being the younger one as my brother and I are nine years apart in age. My brother could be dismissive, rude and unkind to a small kid who just wanted to hang out with the "big kids." However, I purposely annoyed him as good as a little brother could, and I did it with glee.
One day during the 1970s, my brother had a few high-school friends visiting our home and he had the audacity to close the door and kick me out of the room. I heard the girls through the door telling him to let me stay, while the guys seemed indifferent.
Not to be outdone, I placed a pair of my brother's dirty underwear on the end of a yardstick and slowly crept up to the door. I cracked open the door and slid the yardstick and the prize gently through the opening, and the room began to shake with laughter.
The door burst open, and with my brother in hot pursuit, I ran and escaped into our mom's arms while everyone was screaming. I still chuckle about that episode.
Later, just before my brother left for college, he warned me not to touch his books or the holy grail of cool -- his reel-to-reel tape recorder that looked just like the one on the television show "Mission: Impossible."
However, when we returned from taking him to college, the first thing I did was to run my fingers over all his books, and then I actually played his tape recorder while I stood back waiting for it to explode.
If you're a parent, don't worry too much about sibling bickering. I sometimes see the frustration my younger child endures and I promise him that he will survive just as I did years before.
Assuredly, the unique memories that he and his brother will share will last a lifetime.