Ann Cannon: When do brothers finally grow up?

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This summer at the Days of '47 Children's Parade, I watched a couple of kids — two young boys — help themselves to bottles of cold water on the lawn of the City and County Building. Of course they didn't just drink the water. They immediately started dousing each other with it, as young males are genetically programmed to do. They darted through the crowd, laughing and dumping water all over each other, and I went, "Yup. Friends."

But then things turned serious.

One boy smacked the other boy across the ear, and suddenly they were both on the ground, screaming and clubbing each other to the death with water bottles and I went, "Nope. Brothers."

How did I know they were brothers?

Because that's what brothers do. They club each other to the death with water bottles. Or anything else that's handy. Trust me. As the mother of sons, I've had ample opportunity to watch this phenomenon many, many times.

Here's how it goes down. At first things are friendly. A playful slap here. A good-natured shove there. More playful slaps. More good-natured shoves. Good times!

Then somebody pokes somebody else in the eye and before you know it, it's full-on Armageddon at your house. Everything starts to fly. Crayons. Coloring books. Legos. Star Wars guys. Potted plants. Pictures hanging on the wall. Small furniture. Large furniture. Bodies. The family cat that accidentally wanders into the middle of the melee.

Actual injuries resulting from these outbursts are relatively rare — although not always. I remember the Christmas when our two oldest sons had black eyes because a younger brother had clocked them both with a Fisher-Price toy barn.

Sometimes I used to wonder if throwing a sister into the mix of all those brothers would have switched up the dynamic at our house. Maybe my boys would have learned how to fight with their words. And also how to pinch and pull hair! Something their girl cousins excelled at!

But who knows what our family life would have looked like with a few girls around the house. I guess that will just have to remain one of life's great mysteries, not unlike Stonehenge and also crop circles.

Over the years I learned to ignore a lot of the fighting. Stuff usually blew over quickly, like a rainstorm in summer. But there were times I prayed for the day when my boys all grew up and kept their hands to themselves. Because that's what happens, right?

They all grow up. And they keep their hands to themselves.


(MEMO TO YOUNG MOTHERS STILL FULL OF HOPE READING THIS COLUMN: Okay. Maybe you should stop reading now.)

Anyway. Our oldest son turned 33 last week, and when we all got together to celebrate, I couldn't help but notice how some of his brothers started up with a playful slap here and a good-natured shove there.

It was déjà vu all over again, and I nearly turned to my husband to say, "Start clearing the furniture now."

Only I didn't. Because he was busy handing out playful slaps here and good-natured shoves there, too.

So when do brothers finally grow up? ANSWER: Apparently, never.

(Happy birthday, Phil!)