July 13, 2012
Brothers & Others
Yesterday, my oldest (9) wanted my youngest (5) to come out with him to play. My youngest declined the offer because I had just gotten home and he wanted to hang out with me for a while before going outside. "FINE," yelled my oldest, "I AM NEVER PLAYING WITH YOU AGAIN!" And punctuated the declaration with the slamming of the front door.
My youngest looked at me, sad-faced, and waited for me to say something comforting or appropriate. I'm not particularly good at either of those things and frequently mess it up. I shrugged and said, "Don't worry about it, Tristan. He said that because he feels bad and he just wants you to feel bad too. He'll play with you again, don't worry."
He pressed his mouth into a thin line and said, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm taking him out of my picture."
He crossed the room to the front door where he'd attached a stick-figure family portrait. He pulled it down and without any drama, without speaking, he dug in the office supply drawer until he found a pair of scissors and carefully cut around the stick figure of his brother until he was excised from the family portrait.
"There," he said, satisfied, then nodded. He set the two pieces of paper on the coffee table along with the scissors and went back to watching TV.
I didn't say anything, but I did sit for a while and puzzle on this. I wondered where a five year old gets the idea of cutting someone out of a picture. It's not like he's seen anyone in our family do that. Even with my history of weirdo boyfriends, crazy stepmothers and disappointing father figures I have never cut anyone out of a picture.
What did it mean to him? He didn't tell his brother what he did. He didn't make a big production of it. He didn't rail about injustices or brag about revenge or even confetti-ize his brother into little tiny bits of paper and thrown them around the room in a celebration of madness like he could have.
You separated me. I separated you.
There is no doubt they love each other intensely. When my oldest has been punished in the past the little one cries. And when my little one learned to ride his bike the proudest member of the family, I'm certain, was his brother who said, "Tristan you were AMAZING. You have such spirit."
I was gone much of last night so I don't know whatever happened with the picture or anything that was said about it. This morning when I left for work the portrait was back on the door and Julius was stapled back into the family and then, for good measure, Scotch-taped as well -- the shiny circle around him a little reminder that he was separated for a while.