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The Evolving Brother Sister Relationship

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

In the past year, Major has fully evolved in to a toddler, and I’ve noticed the relationship between Marlowe and Major evolving as well.  My kids have had a special relationship from the first moment they met.  I’ve always watched their special connection and been in awe of it– when Major was a baby, Marlowe was always like his second Mama. The first thing she’d do when she woke up was ask how he was and “if he slept the whole night”. LOL. “Where’s my Bubba, Mommy? I want to snuggle him. Can you bring him in my bed?” It was never-ending! She would hold him for hours and hours every day and was always looking out for him and making sure he was doing well.  And as a result, Major has always ADORED her.  He’s totally obsessed, and finds so much comfort in his big sis.  And he still does, but now his obsession with her has turned in to him wanting to do everything that she does– and his size and physical abilities have turned him in to her peer all of a sudden, instead of her little sidekick.  And it’s been really interesting to watch how this simple change has totally spurred an evolution in their dynamic!

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Marlowe has turned from Mommy to Buddy for Major now.  He sees her as more of a playmate and idol than a caretaker, but Marlowe has NOT made that mental shift.  LOL.  She still wants to snuggle him in her arms and have him sit still like that the way he used to!  She still wants to show him how SHE plays and does things, and for him to be in awe watching her– but (surprise, surprise) he wants to be right there with her.  And playing with the SAME TOYS no less.  What is a big sister to do?!  She gets frustrated when she has to share a new toy with her brother and split the time equally.

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

I’m BIG on sharing.  I don’t believe in “her” toys and “his” toys at all, and tell my kids that everything in our house is to be shared by our family.  If they don’t like it, and can’t find a way to play with a toy together, I’ll take it away.  I’ve recently instituted a “two minutes, two minutes” rule with a timer, where each kid gets to play with the toy for two minutes, and I set a timer on my phone.  Spoiler Alert: putting a clock on it inevitably makes one of the two lose interest in the toy anyway, and the entire argument is dropped. 

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

I’ve had lots of conversations with Marlowe about all of this. It’s almost like having a conversation with myself about my babies getting older.  I tell her that I know it’s a bummer that Major isn’t our little baby anymore, but that there are so many fun things they get to do and experience together now that he’s older! Like he can ride in her Elsa Jeep with her with no grown ups! They can hang out in her bed together after lights out before I put him to bed! They both get to go on rides together and to shows together, and they can eat the same meals and everything! I think the hardest piece for her to process is the shift in her identity as leader and Goddess in his eyes.  Marlowe used to say “Jump!” And Major’s response was more or less “How High?” Now she says “Jump!” And sometimes he doesn’t feel like following her directions or playing her game– and that DEVASTATES her.  It’s actually pretty heartbreaking, even though I totally get it.

Eva Amurri Martino's son Major plays around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

The other day, Marlowe came in to my studio sobbing. I thought she got hurt but when I asked her what was wrong, she told me that she wanted to pretend to be lions with Major, but he didn’t want to play that game with her.  “He doesn’t want to play with me, Mom! He doesn’t want to be lions right now,” she told me through sobs.  Her tears were real, too– the heartbreak kind.  I had to explain that Major is still her best friend, but he’s his own person.  He won’t always like all the same things she likes or want to play the same games at the same times– but mostly he does, and that’s why they are besties! She agreed, but I could tell that the power has shifted in to a new balance, and she knows it too. 

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Of course the other side of the coin, is that since Major has grown in to his own little guy, the dynamic between them has become more complex in all the best ways.  They have SO much fun together, and can play together just the two of them for an hour without me having to step in at all.  Sometimes I’ll hear them in Marlowe’s room talking and laughing on their own for ages, playing games and make believe.  In fact, the other day Marlowe was shocked when I shot down her dream of marrying her brother when they grow up.  She was incensed.  “WHY can’t I marry him?! He’s the only one I want to marry! If I can’t marry him I won’t marry anyone!” I tried to explain to her that brothers and sisters can’t marry each other and that, anyway, her opinion on that one would definitely change in a few years.  “Fine,” she said: “I’ll marry Daddy!”

LOL.

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

It’s been so interesting to watch my kids’ relationship evolve and change as time goes on, while still remaining so sweet and close.  I imagine there will be more surprises just around the corner! Did the relationship between your kids change when the youngest became a toddler? Please share in the Comments below!

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's son Major plays around in matching pajamas

Eva Amurri Martino's kids Marlowe and Major play around in matching pajamas

 

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Photographs by Julia Dags.

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24 Comments

  1. Tracy L says:

    Yes, I am going through this with my almost 2 year old. He has two older brothers and all he ever wanted before was to be included when they play. His older brothers loved having their “baby” who would always play with them. This summer I had to referee and make sure they sometimes do what the baby wants. I think part of it has to do with them being together all day over the summer. I know the youngest will be so bummed when his brothers go back to school next week.

    08.20.18Reply
    • Omg I totally get it. And yes he will miss them SO much when school starts!

      08.24.18Reply
  2. Brenda says:

    My most recent memories are from my two youngest grandchildren who are about the same ages as yours. (20 months apart) They also adore each other so I really enjoy watching yours do such similar things as my two. Another relationship for me was the age difference in my first 3 (13, 11 and 9) when my youngest son was born. Talk about having more than two parents…he had 5. Now my older grandchildren absolutely adore my son’s two little ones! A close family is a blessing indeed!

    08.20.18Reply
  3. Tina says:

    Hi Eva,
    Loved this post because even if I have à totally différent situation here: my husband has 2 kids from a previous relationship and we have a daughter together so she is 14 and 12 years younger than her brothers but i Was really wondering how they’re relationship would be and i am totally in awe of their feelings towards each other she does everything She wants with them… they are so Nice to her, so kind, they love each other so much it’s Incredible and of course the relation evolve with the age changing but in my case they are really Happy that their sister is getting bigger so they have more thing to do together so Marlowe will feel the same soon…;-))

    08.20.18Reply
    • Awww that is so sweet! Of course, she won’t be so happy when she learns that she’s NEVER allowed to have a boyfriend! hahaha 😉

      08.20.18Reply
  4. Jen says:

    This is totally what my kids went through just recently! My daughter is now five and my son is 2.5 and he definitely moved into wanting to be an equal and he won’t just go with the flow. She’s still nurturing and sometimes is so patient trying to explain things or include him but other times it turns into meltdown city. She gets in his face to boss him around and he has started hitting (which we’re working on!) but it can get so annoying!! I’ve been trying to give them boundaries and teach them things to work together without us getting involved but it takes repetition and patience. It’s so interesting how dynamics can shift. Good luck!

    08.20.18Reply
    • It’s definitely a hard adjustment phase! I feel you

      08.20.18Reply
  5. kathryn says:

    Omg – the marrying part killed me! Super sweet post, I think seeing your kids relationship evolve is one of the coolest things.

    08.20.18Reply
    • Hhahaha it was pretty hard trying to have that convo without laughing hysterically

      08.20.18Reply
  6. Elle says:

    How far apart are they in age? I have a 20 month old daughter and just found out I’m pregnant. I have a new love of watching your two and imagining my two. 😍

    08.20.18Reply
  7. Jessica says:

    OOMG, these pictures are incredible. They are both the sweetest!

    Weird feedback for you – I always get confused when reading your blog because the exclamation point looks like a question mark to me.

    Just me??

    08.20.18Reply
  8. Yvonne lipes says:

    I have a 17 month old and a soon to be 10 year old. A toddler and a tween.
    They are two peas in a pod. Despite the age gap, they adore each other. I know eventually there will be a shift but for now, I’m enjoying the bond they have. He wants to play games with her and sometimes she watches Sesame Street with him. When she dances on stage at competition he applauds like crazy.
    She is also the one that makes him laugh infectiously.

    08.20.18Reply
    • Awwww! It sounds like you have the sweetest daughter ever! I love that she is so good with the baby!

      08.24.18Reply
  9. Lucia says:

    This is so real and not only in this scenario, realizing that the person you love is a whole other individual and may make different choices or want different things in life some times can be heartbreaking! Specially with a sibiling whom you grew up with, such strong bonds…. Valuable life lessons being learned here!!!

    08.20.18Reply
    • Right?!! I totally agree. Life lessons for 100, Alex!!!!!

      08.24.18Reply
  10. Laura says:

    I can totally relate ❤️ Mine are 17 mos apart (my oldest turned 3 in May and youngest will be 2 in October). This started almost immediately for us whenever the baby started showing interest in toys. It went from obsessing over the baby who slept in the swing and just smiled at him, to his competitor for toys 😂 They still love each other so much and really enjoy each other’s company, but it has been very challenging for me as a parent with this new dynamic. And my oldest is similar to Marlowe in that he likes to be the boss, but my youngest doesn’t always like to be bossed 😉

    08.20.18Reply
  11. Kristin says:

    I have a son 15 months and a daughter 2 1/2. My daughter from the beginning loved her baby brother but it was a difficult transition from being an only child to having to share mommy at such a young age. Now they are slowly enjoying each other’s company more and more each day but because my son is nearly her same height and weight they definitely do get into more arguments. Since they have never really had a lovely dovey relationship I’m waiting for the day they really enjoy each other’s company (finger’s crossed).

    08.20.18Reply
  12. E says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m about a year ahead of you. It seems to keep getting more complicated. Such a delicate balance of nurturing their close relationship and discouraging sibling rivalry.

    08.20.18Reply
  13. Alyssa says:

    How sweet are they! Now that I have a daughter, I always wonder what her relationship would/will be with any future siblings.

    08.20.18Reply
  14. Erika says:

    While I don’t have kids yet, I am the older sister to a younger brother. While I remember not being excited about sharing my parents, I did grow to love having a younger brother. Now we’re the best of friends and have our own way of communicating with each other. It’s the best relationship especially now that we’re in our late 20s/ early 30s. I also like to tell him that I’m the longest relationship he’s going to have so he better get used to me mothering him 😀

    08.21.18Reply
  15. caitie says:

    oh, Lowie, I feel you, girlie! From one big sister to another, I remember when my little brother started getting a mind of his own and wanting to do his own things. It was hard but like your mama says, it’s really FUN too! The amount of things that you and Major are going to get to do now is mind blowing. You won’t totally understand it til you are wwwaaaayyyy older (I’m 32 and my [married! yikes!] little brother is 30) but these next few years with Major are going to make the most awesome of memories and let me tell ya, there is nothing like the bond between big sister and little brother. And don’t worry! He is still going to need and want snuggle time with his big sis because sometimes it’s the only solution to all the problems. Hold tight, Lowie! You’re going go look back and LOVE what comes next.

    08.22.18Reply
  16. Sarah says:

    My oldest is 5.5 and my baby is 2. When the baby was born my oldest daughter was pretty indifferent since she couldn’t play with her sister. Now as they are growing older they want to wear the same clothes and even style their hair to match. So in the end they have grown a lot closer and play together by themselves pretty well. I love that my youngest daughter just idolizes her sister and wants to do everything the same, for the most part at least.

    08.24.18Reply