It's a natural way of life with brothers. They bond. Behind the scenes of the tug of wars and wrestling matches that break out over toy trains and cars and anything "mine", an unspoken trust builds. Brothers begin to lean on each other. Only sometimes, in a way that catches me off guard.
Elliott came home from school one night this week a bit out of kilter. Not that soon-to-be four year olds are ever completely in kilter, but we could see that something was off. Katie began to quiz Elliott about his day. She eventually asked if anyone was mean to him at school that day. He gave her a hesitant no. After some pause, though, he began to tell a story that supported her suspicion.
"Johnny (made up name) told me he didn't want me to follow him around today," said Elliott
"Why'd he say that," I asked.
"I don't know," answered Elliott, with the answer he gives to any questions about his day at school.
"Well, what did you tell him when he told you not to follow him?"
"I told him that if he didn't let me follow him I was going to get my brother after him. And my brother is crazy." Yes, Elliott, almost 4, threatened to unleash his two year old brother, who is crazy, on a classmate in an effort to negotiate a better relationship.
Now, I have to take some credit, blame may be more appropriate, for Elliott's dealings. More than once I've said out loud that Ian is crazy. By that I simply mean that little Ian beats to the tune of his own drum, which many days appears crazy. I never meant to insinuate he could be hired out as a mafia-style enforcer. On the other hand, I can only guess that since many days Elliott has landed on the bottom of a wrestling match with Ian, he came to his own conclusion that Ian could command the same results on his classmates and would eagerly do it for his big brother. And in this case, a much larger classmate than either Elliott or Ian.
I'm grateful that Elliott's 4 year old classmate wasn't yet wise enough to return what would have been a very appropriate response to the threat. "Seriously, you're going to pull your brother away from potty training to tell me how to treat you?"
And Ian is indeed potty training. I don't know if it's a second child thing or if I just have a very short memory, but this hasn't been near the nightmare that potty training Elliott was. Katie assures me that by January 1, Ian will be out of diapers. And when Ian is out of diapers, we are in to more disposable income. For that, Katie is my hero. (I give her full credit for Ian's success).
We have officially entered busy season. Ian had a November birthday; Elliott's follows in December. We have parades, school programs, a trip to Ohio over Thanksgiving, and then all things Santa. And Elliott has reached the age where he completely understands the magnitude of each of those events and wears his excitement where everyone can see it and feel it. Including Ian, who may not understand why he needs to be excited, but rejoices at anything that looks or sounds like a good reason to squeal.
It's a great part about being a parent. To see your kids get excited about the the things in life you don't have to pay for. We took them to the Hanover County airport last weekend and they couldn't have been more thrilled to stand by a fence and watch tiny planes take off. Now it wasn't completely free, because this weekend we will have to pay for the gas to drive them to the Richmond International Airport where they can watch "big jets" take off and land. I guess even in the simplest of experiences visions of bigger and better creep in.
Through it all, I am reminded every day of something I read not long ago, and may have shared, but it's worth repeating to myself every opportunity I get:
Buy your kids experiences, not things.
A few minutes at the airport, a touch of imagination, and you can become an airplane.
Notice the boy beating to the tune of his own drum in the background.
Did I hear you say you won't let my big brother follow you around?