How She Prayed for Her Sons to Get Along

She asked God to bring her twin sons together and then the pandemic happened. 

by
- Posted on Aug 25, 2020

Nicki Cooper and her two sons, Brennan (right) and Breckan; photo courtesy Kamryn Brownlee

Oh, no. Our county had issued a stay-at-home order. This was necessary to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, but I dreaded it. For myself, for my boys. How would they handle being cooped up together for weeks on end? How would I keep the peace while still doing my job as a seventh-grade English teacher?

My 15-year-old twins, Breckan and Brennan, hated each other. I know hate seems like a strong word, a ter­rible word, but if they were in the same room for more than 10 minutes, there was going to be a fight. Contemptuous remarks, yelling, even physical blows.

I was 35 when the doctor announced that I was pregnant with not one but two babies. What a blessing! I’d wanted two children, and I knew getting pregnant would be more dif­ficult as I got older. How fortunate that I’d be having both my children at once!

My sister had twin toddlers, a boy and a girl. I knew from watching her that raising twins was tough. Double diapers and feed­ings. Two times the tantrums. Still, I be­lieved what everyone said: “Your boys will have a built-in best friend for life!”

 

Then Brennan and Breckan were born. As babies and then toddlers, they played in the same room but never with each other. What’s going on? I won­dered. Maybe they’d become friends later. They started school, and Breckan quickly established himself as asser­tive and action-oriented, while Brennan was quieter and more contemplative.

At about age five, they began to fight. Fighting was foreign to me. Even as children, my sister and I would resolve our conflicts with words. We were dif­ferent but good friends. My parents, married for 52 years, had never yelled at us or each other. I’d had such a har­monious upbringing. How could I have produced such adversarial offspring?

“They’re boys,” my husband would say. He had grown up around brothers. “Boys fight.”

My husband was definitely a yeller, raising his voice over things big and small. The dishes! The finances! When my husband left our marriage—the boys were six and a half—I thought we’d finally know peace.

Not for long. Breckan channeled his energy into sports, and everything be­came a competition. Brennan was drawn to music and arts. When I heard voices raised, I’d jump in and try to mediate. “Please, be kind to each other,” I’d say. “Just ignore your brother if you have to. He’s trying to push your buttons.”

By the time the boys turned eight, they’d had enough. Bickering escalated into blows.

“I hate him!” screamed Breckan.

Brennan yelled right back. “He’s the worst person I ever met! How is he my brother?”

I was heartbroken. How could I help them see the value, the joy, in being brothers? I held family meetings. Con­fiscated electronics. Tried counseling. I asked God to bring them together. They didn’t have to like each other. I couldn’t control that. But somewhere deep in­side, didn’t they love each other? As brothers? Wasn’t that what God wanted?

For years, our house functioned best with the boys in separate spaces—Breckan in his bedroom, Brennan up in the game room with his drum kit. At school, they ran with different groups: Breckan with the jocks, and Brennan with his musical theater and commu­nity service friends.

I lowered my expectations. The boys’ relationship wasn’t ideal, but they un­derstood what family meant. They were so sweet to me, and both adored their older cousins. They had each found their friends in the world and were thriving in their own separate corners.

I tried to tell myself that was enough. But sometimes I’d imagine holidays with two adult sons. Brennan and Breckan with their families around a table, barely speaking to one another—or worse, at each other’s throats. And my heart would break all over again.

That was why the stay-at-home order filled me with such dread. I set up my classroom in the dining room, preparing to finish out the school year from home. And steeling myself for the battles that would inevitably erupt between my boys.

For eight hours a day, I planned and posted assignments, and e-mailed or Skyped with students. Brennan and Breckan finished their schoolwork within three hours, then filled the rest of their time with electronics, skate­boarding, basketball and naps. Bren­nan played drums and had lessons with his teacher over Zoom. Breckan even got out his guitar.

On the ninth day, I heard voices and laughter coming from Brennan’s room. That sounds like both my boys, I thought. Impossible. Maybe it was the TV. I put dinner on hold and went down the hall to investigate.

I knocked on the bedroom door. “Brennan, it’s me.”

“Come in, Mom.”

I opened the door, and my breath caught in my throat. Both my sons were sitting on the edge of Brennan’s bed, video game controllers in hand, grins on their faces.

“What’s going on here?”

“Just having fun,” Breckan said.

“Together?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s great!” I said, trying to mask my surprise. I shut the door.

Please, God, I prayed. Let this be the beginning of a new relationship for my boys. Let them learn to love each other!

The next afternoon, after their schoolwork was done, I found the two of them in the front yard with baseball gloves, tossing a ball back and forth. Brennan let Breckan join an online video game with his group of friends.

Was I imagining things? Were the boys…getting along? A week later, I looked out the window and saw the twins showing each other how to do tricks on the trampoline. They start­ed knocking on each other’s doors to share funny YouTube videos: “Dude, you gotta see this!”

I was shocked—and delighted. This was what I’d always hoped for! I felt a lit­tle guilty feeling so joyful when so much of the rest of the world was suffering. In our house, there was more peace than we’d ever known. I wasn’t sure why. Had sheer boredom driven my boys to­gether? Had fear of what was going on outside our home made the twins appre­ciate what they had inside it?

One evening, I stopped by Breckan’s room for our nightly chat before I went to bed. “Hey, what do you think has been happening with you and your brother lately?” I asked him. “Why are you getting along?”

Breckan shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom. We’re maturing, I guess. I don’t want to talk about it.”

Leave it to me, their mushy English teacher mom, to try to analyze what had happened and put it into words. But the how or the why doesn’t matter, really. What does matter is that there’s love between my sons at last. And the best word for that is miracle.

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