About brothers

You may have noticed I do not write as much about Benjamin as I do about his brother.  This is because the type of mental punishment that Zach inflicts upon us is more conducive to written expression.  Make no mistake about it, his brother is getting more and more adept at physical types of tribulation. 

I noticed the other day that, in fact, we all spend most of our time trying to avoid some sort of physical damage at the hands of our sixteen-month-old.  Whenever he gets his hands on an object – any object – we all instinctively recoil, grabbing all breakable items as we retreat.  We also tell him “no” quite a bit.  We try to reserve “no” for more serious transgressions.  Unfortunately, these are every three or four minutes with Benjamin in the house. 

“No hitting me, Benjamin.”

“No banging your brother on the head with a fire truck, Benjamin.”

“No grabbing eyeglasses and testing their flexibility, Benjamin.”

And, most importantly, “No stealing your brother’s Taggie, Benjamin.”

When Zach was a toddler, he took “no” seriously.  He never wanted to let us down.  Ben, on the other hand, thinks it is hysterical to find new and creative ways to get us to look him in the eye and admonish.  Nothing throws him into a fit of cackling faster than smacking Zach with a helicopter, stealing his Taggie, and taking off with a parent running behind him.

Something must be done.  It just is not fair for Zachary to live in terror of his baby brother.  And Zach usually does not hit back.  Why?  Because we told him not to, of course.  It is our job, then, to defend him.  The only thing that actually seems to upset Ben is to take away all toys-doubling-as-weapons and then remove him to another room, leaving him alone in the playpen to ponder the error of his ways.  This we have begun to do, and let me tell you, it is working.  Boy does that kid dislike time-out.

The biggest worry with Benjamin is that he is going to land himself in the hospital.  The other day we were in a store and he found a big box of those metal rods they use to attach merchandise to peg board.  It was several minutes before the threat even registered with me.  I am just getting way too used to all measure of potential physical harm.

Yesterday, I actually let him fall down the steps intentionally.  He was two steps from the bottom and it was clear, from the completely reckless way he was approaching the descent, that he was going to topple down those last two steps.  I could have saved him, but I wanted to let him get a little hurt.  I knew it would be just a minor bump.  Maybe if he falls down two steps more often, he’ll be less likely to try to throw himself down 13 all at once.  (Note: I do not actually encourage him to hurt himself, so don’t go getting all anxious.  I just sometimes let himself inflict his own minor injuries upon himself.  Like when he climbs on the furniture.)

Sometimes Benjamin seems intent upon even greater risk.  These are the moments we are grateful Zachary came first.  Like a few weeks ago, when I was loading the dishwasher.  Ben was across the room, but Zachary was right next to me, awaiting his big chance to close the door.  I turned away to pick up a dish, and suddenly I heard Zach shouting “NO!”  I turned quickly, only to find that Benjamin had somehow magically transported across the room, grabbed a steak knife out of the dishwasher, and was brandishing it about.  Good thing my little three-year-old alarm system was on the job.

The next day, Zach kept his brother from perishing all over again.  “Mommy,” he said, “I think Benjamin is going to choke on those stones.”  Oh, right.  Must keep one-year-old from eating pebbles. 

If Zachary were not here, I am pretty sure Benjamin would have little chance of making it to kindergarten.  He is quite lucky to have such an older brother (and, believe me, I know from difficult older siblings).  Much as Ben feels perpetually left behind by his older brother, Zachary seems invested in keeping his little brother alive.

But, it was not till last week that I saw how much Zach must love the little guy.  He was sitting in front of the television, a privilege he gets for only 20 minutes a day.  He chooses to spend his television allotment on Thomas and Friends, as any wise pre-schooler would.  When Thomas is on, he brooks no disturbance, entering a trance-like state during which I really believe he is transported to the Island of Sodor.

Benjamin, who finds television entirely too safe and passive, was in the room with me, playing a brand-new game in which he took all the plastic kids’ plates off the shelf – one by one – and scattered them about the floor.  Eventually, as he always does, he hurt himself, this time by slipping on one of the plates, falling backwards, and banging his head on the floor.  It was Three Stooges goes toddler.

As I gathered him up for a cuddle, I heard the thump of Zachary’s feet hitting the floor, then patter, patter, patter.  Zachary came bursting into the room, ran over, kissed Benjamin on the head, then spun on his heel and ran back out.  Patter, patter, patter.

No sense in missing more of Thomas and Friends than is absolutely necessary.

20 responses to “About brothers

  1. Aww… Zachary sounds like such a champ!

    Meanwhile, “No grabbing eyeglasses and testing their flexibility, Benjamin.”

    Seriously? You used the word ‘flexibility’ with a 16-month-old? LOL!

  2. Good for you letting a few bumps and bruises come his way – kid will NOT learn otherwise (and I speak from experience). Hope you don’t get the “augh! You don’t wrap your child in bubble-wrap and cover the floor with fluffy swansdown to protect his every step!??” responses.

    Sounds as though you have a typical first kid/second kid thing. Our first Child was self-punishing (literally, would put itself in time-out before we knew it had done anything wrong) while our second child would clearly weigh the punishment and decide the sin was well worth it. I think it’s nature’s way of ensuring you even HAVE a second child!

  3. Big brothers and sister are a blessing – when they can resist not being a pain – lol

  4. Aw, that ending there is so sweet! Zachary is one great big brother.

  5. Awe. What a good brother. That is so nice to hear.
    My boys are super proud of their baby. My friend just told me that when she brought over her adorable brand new baby my 2 year old said to her, “Our baby is cute and smarter than your baby.” I’ll just take that as being loyal, I guess. Still, if I would have heard it I wouldn’t have let him get away with that.
    It is nice to see that family ties can be so strong at such a young age.

  6. This is just what I needed this morning, Emily. A nice sweet brother story.

    I also got quite a chuckle out of Benjamin transporting across the room to nick a steak knife out of the dishwasher. Bean is the same way. The kid is instantly attracted to sharp and potentially life-threatening utensils such as that. Give him a fairly innocuous whisk, though, and he chucks it right over his shoulder. Not interested.

  7. yep, we have a few here that needs minor boo-boos so they know mama knows best- and one who mostly takes my word for. I hope the little ones notice soon how big brother gets fewer injuries, cries less and still manages to have lots of fun!

  8. Awww! Zachary is such a sweet little boy.

    But, babe, you just described my 2 children. Perfectly. Hollis did not prepare us for Hurricane Holden in any way. Hollis is a rule follower and a people pleaser. Holden is determined to fling himself down the steps, choke on rocks, poison himself by eating things off the ground, swat and bite whenever we say “no,” torture his brother 24/7, and basically ensure that we can never, ever let our guard down.

    He’s 22 months. I’ll let you know if it ever ends….

  9. If the birth order was reversed, so would, I think, your stories be.

    You do not sound rash…that step incident is what’s called a natural consequence.

    By child #2 you realize they are actually hardier than we think and it’s easier to let nature takes its course. Not to say you are encouraging anything Darwinian of course.

    Benjamin will get a taste of mortality. It usually happens somewhere around 2 1/2. But then again, I don’t know about boys.

    I do know about Persistence aka Fearless who did not too long ago find a little bit of “looking before leaping.”

    It arrived with the fear of Monsters. That’s how I knew it was Mortality.

    Using My Words

  10. I so enjoyed this post. In my experience with 5 brothers and 4 daughters, boys are more physicially reckless; girls more emotionally reckless.

  11. Yep – boys are into everything and on everything and try everything – and sometimes hard to keep up with!! I have only the one boy, but he is so different than my three girls. I love the “adventure” in little boys – try to focus on that – as it will go on forever! They sound wonderful – your boys and I love that your older one is such a good brother. Take care and see you soon. Kellan

  12. Oh, yes… actions and consequences. 🙂 Still, it sounds like they will have a good relationship.

  13. I love that you said you let him fall on the steps! So many people wouldn’t admit to ever letting their kid get hurt…I think it’s a very necessary thing.

  14. fluttercrafts

    🙂 they sound whole.

  15. I am all about the natural consequences as well, Emily. Your stair-tumbling story makes me smile. I often feel guilty when I don’t “save” them from the consequences of their choices….but if I did, they would only continue fighting ME instead of understanding why it’s important to do things differently. Great post!

  16. I really enjoyed this glimpse of your two boys. Oh, closing the dishwasher door – it is a treat!

    My son is more cautious and hesitant about new things than my daughter was at his age, but he has periods when it’s as though he’s possessed and he plays so roughly it’s a miracle we aren’t all bruised and broken in a matter of minutes.

  17. That story could have been written about my boys. Calvin is so cautious and generally compliant, and he always worries about Hobbes choking or hurting himself. And Hobbes just barrels through life without thinking of the consequences.

    Only difference, putting Hobbes in the crib with no toys does not work. He just sits there and makes up games with his toes. I have yet to find an effective discipline. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

    They sound like great brothers!

  18. better than the healing kiss of a mommy, the healing kiss of an older brother…

    when I was teaching music to preschoolers today one kid bumped her arm, and I kissed it to make it better (and it worked, which amazed me, as my child is never fooled by such things and insists on having abandaid). Suddenly,all sorts ofkids were hurt, with booboos that only needed a kiss. Odd how that happens.

  19. Oh, that was a moment worth commemorating.

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who lets her kids get a little bit hurt so they can learn not to get a lot bit hurt later. I wondered if I should turn myself in to CPS this afternoon as I let Eli (almost 2) jump off the couch.

    “Three stooges goes toddler” made me giggle.

  20. Wow! That’s almost just the dynamic we have at our house–the excessively verbal, inquisitive big brother and two walking cyclones. Except big brother is a bit more of an instigator than a champ (I’m trying hard to think of an instance when he’s rescued them–I know it’s happened–but I guess I focus more on the punching, chasing, stealing). And time out has never been an option (they could climb out of cribs and high chairs and playpens by 18 mos). I did send Z out on the deck to scream this fall (he screams at the top of his lungs when angry), but now that we have half a foot of snow, that’s no longer an option. I’d like to say it gets better from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half, because it does, in some ways, but they also get bigger, stronger, smarter, and faster. Good luck.