Watching Little Boy peer out the window this morning, calling back every ten seconds in a distressed voice, “Mommmmm! Papa isn’t HERE yet!”, I begin to ponder what a rich experience it is having brothers (I’m sure sisters too, but I have only brothers and sons so my perspective is there). The Littlest Boy hears him and runs over to climb to his lookout chair, regarding his brother before peering out. I’m not sure if he even knows what they are looking for, but it strikes me again how rich his life has been already because he has a brother. A friend affirms that the greatest gift she ever gave her youngest son was that he was born a brother.
A boy who is born a brother has a built-in entertainment system. Ours is called “Austin TV.” We watch it all the time!
“Austin TV” beats any channel offered by your cable provider, plus comes with the added feature of being 3D and interactive! It is also is a fantastic improvement to the only channel available pre-brotherhood: “Mom TV.” This new channel features shows on trains, planes and automobiles, sandbox tutorials, the need for speed, car crashes, monster trucks, diggers, proper pancake assembly, feet on the table and more.
Frequently I marvel and point out to Little Boy how the Littlest learns how to be a real boy by watching his brother. It goes for more than just playing with cars too. When he snatches stuff, his brother learns to snatch when he wants something. When he waits his turn, his brother learns to take turns. When he shows how to make a fair trade, brother learns how to trade.
One of our stories involves the hypothetical storyline, “If Everyone Were Snatchers.” We joke and go into detail about what our neighbors might take and hide, then we’d have to go find it and snatch it back, then it would be snatched again and everyone would start getting angry and hurtful, and someone might just want to snatch the van! Then we’d have no van. The end is always when the van is snatched and the moral of the story is that snatching (aka toy taking) is never okay, and it doesn’t matter who you are.
The catch about “Austin TV” is that the show’s namesake sometimes needs a respite from the audience or it gets a little ‘reality tv’ around here. Today we were given new episodes of “Hoarding: toys” and “None For You!” after the exciting arrival of a gift box from Dad filled with airplanes from the Smithsonian Museum. In the midst of all the commotion, the Littlest learned how to play with the airplanes by watching his older brother “playing” with them…throwing them jerkily around…only he missed the subtle nuance that it was actually his older brother trying to cope the best he knew how with the dreaded drool, and jerking them away.
When confronted with most things that make me question the wisdom of having children in the first place, I frequently pick up my sibling bible, Siblings Without Rivalry. Quickly pinpointing what a release it is to feel heard and reflected, I gave it a try, asking whether Little Boy was worried the Littlest would snatch his stuff. Out came a torrent of concern: fear the new toys would be broken, lost or slobbered on. Affirming that sounded a bit worrisome, we brainstormed how we could work around that since the toys were for us all. We came up with some ideas and laid it all out to the Littlest. Unable to fully comprehend the detailed plan we’d hatched about who was to play with what, and when, and the serious consequences for slobbering on new airplanes (towel them off ), the Littlest continued on as usual but Little Boy was noticeable calmer.
One goal I aspire to as a parent is to meet the rough patches with guidance and collaboration rather than shame. After all, we have new episodes airing daily but sometime, someone will remember how to distract, how to provide guidelines and boundaries for play with personal items, when to retreat to a personal space, or how to teach his brother what he *does* want him to do rather than what he *doesn’t*. These lessons will serve them well. They surely must take lots of practice.
Shoot, I practice every day and still don’t get it right.
But periodically a little reassurance comes that with all the “learning” they do during the day, their world is richer when they have each other…and deep down somewhere they know it.