A Tale Of Two Boys

My sons are 11 years apart in age. In ways, they are very much alike. They are both quick-witted. They are both funny. They are both smart.

They are very different.

My younger son, Joey, is 16 now. In 16 years, the most he has ever scared me was to wander off to the neighboring subdivision without telling me where he was going.

Zach, who is 27 now, he was very different.

Joey played quietly when he was little. He liked to read books. He wasn’t enamored with climbing or riding bikes at high rates of speed or catching scaly things.

Zach on the other hand, well, Zach got into things.

Zach managed to knock a basketball hoop over with my car. When he was six. He was not in the car at the time. He and his buddy, another six year old, decided my car was in the way of their basketball fun and tried to push it out of the way. They rocked it until it started rolling backward. It hit the basketball goal, which ended up on the the roof of my car.

Here’s another difference, when Joey was small and said “Hey mom, look at this” then it meant he wanted to show me a picture he drew or to show me something he built. When Zach said “Hey mom, look at this” it meant to run to the sound of his voice as fast as you can because it’s possible he has a bucket with a snake in it that is trying to escape into the living room. I believe the snake incident happened the same Summer as the basketball hoop incident.

Joey has never had a single trip to the emergency room. Zach fell out of trees, cut himself multiple times and one horrifying time, got hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat. He was four. I watched it happen. He had a knot that was the size of a baseball. I remember holding him in the ER and walking back and forth and telling him that he couldn’t take a nap. When we got in for x-rays the nurse told him to lay on his back on a hard table. He looked at her and said “Are you crazy? Did you see the bump on my head?

That’s another way my boys differ. Joey is diplomatic. He’s outspoken, he holds strong opinions, but he is tactful. Well, tactful for a teenage boy. Zach pretty much just says exactly what is on his mind without regards to diplomacy.

Joey excels in school and Zach ended up in alternative school (for a short while) with kids who couldn’t be controlled in a traditional school setting. Most of the kids in there were budding criminals who wreaked havoc in school. Zach was in there not for a criminal act, but because he just wouldn’t stop annoying the shit out of his teachers.

Joey is creative and intelligent and he will be okay.

Zach had to take the long road to adulthood. He suffered setbacks that were so terrifying that I forgot how to take a deep breath for years.

Now? He’s successful. He’s got a great job with unlimited potential. He got his GED when he was 18 and plunged into a years long drug addiction. He has been clean for over two years now and has managed to get on a track that will keep him safe with his bills paid. He’s going to have to put a few more years in before he has to stop living lean, but he will get there. He has made some monumentally bad choices, but he is smart and he is tenacious.

My boys are approaching life in different ways. My stubborn boy took the rocky road, but I’m starting to believe it was the road he needed to take. My baby boy? I think it will be easier for him.

They adore each other. They show it in the way of the boys, which I don’t always understand, but usually find amusing.

For instance, this past weekend, when we had a packed house, Zach stopped by with his girlfriend to visit with family. He left a note written on the bathroom mirror for his brother. It said ‘Joey hearts weiners’.

Joey saw the message when he returned from work and responded by texting his brother to let him know he misspelled ‘wieners’.

There has never been a day that my devotion to these amazing boys has wavered. I am so lucky to be their mother.





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  • I love stories like this. In a lot of ways they sound like my two stepsons (who are three years apart). The older one is more like Joey one and the younger one is more like Zach (with the years it was hard to take a deep breath). They are now 35 and 32 (holy crap) and both are amazing men…it’s an honor beyond words to be their stepmother.

    There’s a story about the two of them that goes way back before I met their father, but I have repeated it often. J was seven and B was four and they’d been learning how to swim in a neighbor’s pool. Once they had the basics down, they were finally allowed to go off the diving board. J went first. He stepped up, walked carefully to the end, plugged his nose, hesitated, then stepped off. B, on the other hand, ran screaming with his arms waving over his head and never stopped…right off the end. THAT is a great example that shows how different they are.

    • My doctor put me on xanax when I was going through the worst of it and I didn’t miss the irony of taking an addictive substance while dealing with someone with addiction. Fortunately, I didn’t have any trouble walking away from it. mostly. I still take it for panic attacks, but not on a daily basis like I did back then.

  • What a beautiful post–I love how you understand, support, and celebrate them as individuals. I think my son is a combination of your two–but maybe more like Joey.

    I really hope my kids leave each other inappropriate messages on the bathroom mirror someday…

    • Oh, I am very sure they will leave inappropriate messages on the mirror one day. I love how my boys are different. I wish Zach hadn’t struggled as much..but he’s good now. I am beyond proud of him. And Joey…well…he can be a smartass (no idea where he gets it) but he’s always been a joy. except for when he’s not.

  • Ah, brothers. My brother was ten years older than me, and he taught me how to swim. Read that as when I was about six, he got (justifiably; I was insufferable) sick of my bullshit and snatched me up by my belt and collar, hauled me down the trail by the side of the house, and tossed me in the lake. Pro tip: If you are forbidden to enter your brother’s room when he’s not in it, and you do so anyway, be careful where you step: that footprint on the dust-jacket of his new Beatles album can only be yours.
    As I got older, we got along better, tough. He even let me ride his Harley when I had my learner’s permit before I got my driver’s license.
    I’m not sure where I got the idea that a little brother’s job is to be as much of a pain-in-the-ass as possible, but apparently I wasn’t the only little brother to get that message.

  • This is great! Mine are just little and 15 months apart (boy and girl), but they are polar opposites and I love it. One is serious and brave and independent, the other is silly and cuddly and needy (in a good way). I love your story.

  • I love this story, and also your realization as their mom that kids need to make their own mistakes, no matter how much it hurts us to see. I hope I can do the same as my little one ages.

  • I also have 2, one is 25 the other 22 but they are just like this! As children my oldest was the calm read a book, watch TV kind of kid then I had his sister which was demon child. Escaping her crib at 8 months, stitches, broken fingers you name it. Then when they became teenagers they switched she became an honor roll, part time job, determined to pay her own way at 16. She discovered her first love in the 5th grade. They’re terrific, happily married for 4 years expecting twins in 2 months. My son barely graduated and wrecked more cars and had more speeding tickets than should be allowed, joined the Marines went to Afghanistan and came back angry and bitter man. He had a hard time readjusting and he’s still trying to figure it out. They are so different I wished they got along better though.

  • Our kids are 11 years apart too–computer genius older brother, artistic younger sister, but so alike in so many ways. And absolutely devoted to one another. I had to laugh at Joey’s reaction to the ER nurse, as it sounds very much like something Adrian would have said at that age. Lovely post, Michelle!

  • If you made a few minor adjustments here and there, you could be talking about my older brother and me.

    My mom’s devotion never ever wavered.

    My brother’s tenacity never wavered.

    • Oh, I do…he seems to be very committed to being clean. And congratulations to you for the same. I don’t know first hand how difficult it is, but I do have a pretty intimate knowledge of addiction. You should be very proud. 🙂

  • That’s heartwarming.

    My boys are similarly opposite, although a little closer in age (3 years). I am so grateful they cherish each other….

    Because on the days when I’m about to kill the older one, his brother holds me back.

  • Isn’t it funny how kids can be so different? I was the wild child and my sis was the golden girl. My eldest was the scholar and my youngest found school to be…well, not someplace he really wanted to be. All of us followed vastly different paths, but we are all good people, successful in our own way. It sounds to me that you are doing just what a mom should do — loving and supporting your kids, no matter what!

By Michelle


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