I hear the slider door of our beach house squeak and the sound of footsteps as they amble down the wooden deck stairs. I can hear them before I see them: my teens are headed out on their summer evening ritual. Every night, shortly after dinner, they grab an ice cream from our beach house freezer and head off down the beach for an evening walk.
What they talk about on these evening strolls, I’ve never asked. Presumably, they discuss their parents, school gossip, and the latest Marvel movie. As I watch them disappear into the fading sun, my heart swells with pride.
My teens are siblings, yes.
But they are also best friends and it’s my greatest joy as a parent.
People have asked me what our secret is when it comes to raising teens who are close and the truth is, I’m at a loss to explain how their relationship evolved into such a close-knit bond.
Over the years, I’ve listened as my friends have detailed sibling rivalries and arguments over shared bedrooms. I’ve quietly taken in a friend’s frustration over two daughters who compete over clothing, boys, and grades. And, I’ve tried to be empathetic when a friend confided in me that she cries at night because she’s sure her boys will never like each other, much less be close one day.
And, when a friend relays a story about a sibling frustration, she usually looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to chime in with my own stories of brother and sister discord.
But, as they say, I got nothing.
My teens are close in a way that I don’t understand.
When they were small, if one of them was given a treat, they’d always ask for a second one to bring home to their partner in crime. And there is nothing like seeing the sheer joy on a toddler’s face when she’s realized her big brother has come home with a lollipop from the bank for her, too.
After my father’s death, I’d find them, ages 7 and 9, curled up in one of their beds, clutching the special teddy bears we’d bought them to help ease the grief. And, when I caught a glimpse of them holding hands at his funeral, the thought that they’d likely do the same at my funeral brought me to my knees.
They already have each other’s back, for life.
I see their kindred spirits in the way my daughter lights up when her brother returns home from work.
I see their special bond when my son giddily wraps a birthday present that I had no idea my daughter even wanted.
I see their teamwork when they are conspiring against their father and me in an effort to convince us to take them out for dinner, ice cream, or a movie.
And, I see their mutual respect for each other when, in a rare moment of anger, one sheepishly knocks on the other’s door and says, “Hey, you over yourself yet? Wanna play Minecraft?”
They speak in video games, Marvel movies, and the shared experience of attending the same school. They show their affection when they text each other memes no one else finds funny and they seem to dance to the beat of their own sibling music.
In fact, there are days when I feel like an outsider, an intruder almost, into the world they’ve created as friends.
Sure, they both have a wide circle of friends and there’s many a night when our home is quiet because they are off separately doing what teens do on a Friday night. But, when they both walk in the door, I can usually find them at the kitchen counter, eating ice cream out of the container, and recounting their evenings.
On the days when I come home from work and see them huddled on the couch, laughing over some internet sensation’s YouTube channel, I breathe a tiny sigh of relief. Sure, we have our fair share of teen angst and eye rolling, but, typically, it’s them against us. And I’m grateful because that’s the order of things.
They go together like peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, Ren and Stimpy.
I look out on the horizon and see them chasing each other back to our house, dodging waves and kicking up sand. As my daughter pulls out in front of my son, she glances back and yells, “Try to keep up, bro!” and takes off, her brow hair flying in the beach wind. And, when I watch him dutifully kick up his speed to stay by her side, I know they’ll never be alone.