Parenting Guru: Giving thanks for a brother who's also a role model

Recently, I had the pleasure of another mother at my son's preschool telling me she hoped her baby boy would be just like my "Little" when he was older. She complimented his kindness, his good listening skills, and his smile. (Of course, she didn't see his hula hoop show at dinner the other night, but I'll take a compliment where I can get it!)

It got me thinking. Who do I want my little boys to be like when they are older? Of course, I think their dad is wonderful. Every single day they're lucky to watch and learn from him. We also have a lot of very special friends and family in our lives. But as a mom, I have to say, I have a soft spot for my brother and the man he's grown up to be.

If you know my brother, well, you know he's a character. He stands 6 feet and 8 inches tall, sports a handle bar mustache, and drives a sports car to his very cool job at a brewery where he helps make beer. While he may seem anything but predictable from the outside, those of us who know him know he's been a rock in our family.

About 7-1/2 years ago, our father was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was life altering for all of us, but particularly our parents since the tumor, surgery, and treatments had a severe physical impact on our dad. Being out of state was hard on my brother, so he moved home where he could be of more help. He was more than that, he was an angel.

His being there for my dad allowed my mom to continue working for years, and for him to create an even stronger bond with my dad. Through the years, even after moving out, my brother tirelessly mowed the lawn every week he could, he came by with donuts each week and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with my parents, and he quickly established his place as the other man of the house.

A year ago, our father passed away. And while a lot has changed, one thing hasn't. My brother is still there every week to help my mom around the house and to keep her company. Not because it's what he "should" do, but because it's who he is and what he wants to do.

As a sister, I'm grateful to him. While I've done my best to support our mom in the best way a mother of three young children can, my role is different. Knowing that he's there and so utterly dependable is a huge comfort to me.

As a mom, well, I have a whole new appreciation for him. I can only hope that my boys learn how important family is from him. That they realize that they have the freedom to be their very own, unique selves, but that they are always part of a very special family unit.

I hope that in spending time with my brother, their uncle, my boys learn that patience, hard work, creativity, kindness, a sense of humor, a sense of self respect, and a healthy love of the people around you make you the kind of man that others hope their little boys are like when they grow up.

Amy is a Shine Parenting Guru. You can find her sharing more of her adventures with her two boys and baby girl on her slice-of-life blog, Using Our Words. (But while you're here, why not follow her on Facebook?)