A few days ago I heard a rustling coming from the closet by the front door. I peered around to find Oliver, my younger son, rummaging in the umbrella stand. He looked up at me, sheepish. In the container, I found what appeared to be a stash of items he had put there - a secret treasure trove of random things he'd carefully placed for safekeeping.
Instantly, I understood: the toys in this house - the ones meant for two brothers to share - are often caught in a tug of war. And usually, the bigger person wins.
No wonder Oliver has his own secret stash.
I can't blame Matthew for trying to label everything his - he's still in that phase of discovering what sharing means. And he was once the only child in this house, after all - the one to whom all the toys belonged.
While Matthew is slowly adjusting to the idea that he has to share with his brother, Oliver is only just learning that sharing is even an issue.
Often in these situations, I hastily jump to Oliver's defense, imploring Matthew to please share, to not snatch, to be kind, suggesting he find a toy to give his brother because that would be a nice thing to do.
And Oliver, the little brother, already somewhat adept at getting even, knows exactly the right sad face to pull, and just how to cry, so that I'll come running with my protective arms outstretched.
I'm a sucker for big teary eyes.
They tell me, one day they do learn to share. But I'm not holding my breath for the short term.
In the short term, all there is, is patience. And the occasional times when they play harmoniously and I run for the camera.
One of the challenges of raising two brothers close in age is teaching the art of gentleness: how to play together, how to get along, how to share, how to be kind to one another, how to be gentle.
And for me, finding a middle ground - somewhere between patiently teaching them the right way, and not flying off the handle every time someone kicks, pushes, trips, hits, or steals a toy - is an art in itself, too.
All I can do for now is steer them in the right direction.