My boys were born three years, four months, twenty-three days, two hours and eleven minutes apart.
I was kind of worried about this particular age difference, but that's just how it worked out.
It seemed too far apart. Ideally, two to two and a half years seemed about right, but that's just not how it happened. I was afraid they wouldn't be close enough in age to play together, and at first, it seemed as though I was right.
Initial interactions between them included me yelling "Zachary! Don't poke your brother in the eye!" and "Zachary! Don't step on the baby!"
We quickly graduated to "Cooper! Don't bite your brother!" and "Cooper! We don't grab toys away from Zachary!" and "No, no Cooper! Don't pull your brother's hair!"
And then slowly, oh so slowly, it became "Boys, knock it off!" and "Boys! Keep it down!" and "Boys! Stop ninja attacking Mama!"
Even though their little boy antics drive me straight up a wall sometimes, I secretly love it when they make mischief together, superhero capes on, whispering and plotting and planning until I hear one of them - usually Zachary - yell "Ok, NOW!" and then they jump out at me from behind some piece of furniture, Nerf guns blazing, yelling "You're surrounded! Surrender now!"
So slowly their relationship has evolved, and now, they are friends.
They are the best kind of friends.
Don't misunderstand me, it's not all rainbows and puppies around here. They fight. They fight as only brothers can. And they tussle and yell and cry and occasionally do each other bodily harm over the smallest slight, perceived or real, like "Mama! he touched me!" or "His piece is bigger than mine!" or most often "I had that first!" and then it's a knock down drag out fight, until suddenly it is completely, utterly forgotten and they are playing superheroes or coloring pictures of extra-special Pokemons or pretending to be baby alligators once again, and whatever caused the fight in the first place is exactly where it should be between friends and brothers, which is completely gone and forgotten, until the next time.
Oh, and how they take up for one another! Nothing makes one of them more upset than me putting the OTHER one in time out. "Mama! Why you mad on my brother?!?!?" Cooper will ask, his little face scrunched up at the injustice of such a thing. Zachary is a little more subtle. If Cooper sitting in the time out chair, Zack will slip him a toy to play with when he thinks I'm not looking.
There are days when Zack comes home from school exhausted and wanting nothing else in the world than to spend a half hour alone in his room with his DS or whatever the gadget du jour is, but more often than not he will sigh, then agree whenever Cooper, who has been missing big brother all day, says. "Zachary, will you play puppies with me?" is pretty common, and there's the one that melts my heart a million times over, "Zack, will you read to me? PWWWEEEEAAAASSSEEE??"
Melting over here.
So yeah, it's working out better than I had hoped or imagined, for them and for me.
They each have someone to count on, someone who's always going to say, "Bro, I got your back," as Zachary did just the other day in the midst of an epic pretend battle, and I know that they will have each other, long after RJ and I are gone. They have someone they can confide in, and talk to, and listen to, and experience things with, especially when it's a time a parent just won't do. They have a built in best friend, and it's one who will never move away, and it's one who, based on sheer proximity, will not be able to move on to other, flashier, cooler friends.
Oh, I know as they get older and make more friends of their own and get interests that are separate from one another, they may not be as close as they seem to be now, when I have some say in how they spend their time.
But I also know that those three years, four months, twenty-three days, two hours and eleven minutes will fade to almost nothing as they grow into adulthood, and that their shared histories will continue to bring them back to one another.
And that makes this Mama very happy.