July 13, 2012

Brothers & Others

Boys fight. I remark on this frequently because it drives me crazy and everyone says it's just what boys do and it doesn't mean anything.  Okay. Fine.

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.


  1. Sniff.

    I love this. Maybe because it is summer and my own kids (boys and a girl) are fighting like crazy. And yet somehow late at night (when their parents would prefer to be asleep) they are all fast friends, giggling and plotting.

    There has been some "I hate yous" thrown around lately. When it happens, I point to my own brother, with whom I did not get along until after college but who I could now easily call my best friend, and tell them that later in life this will be the three of them. They look at me like I am insane.

    But when I see them late at night, I know I'm right.

    Also, for what it's worth, I think you handle these things extremely well.

    1. I have two brothers who are quite a bit older than me and the family story is that I was terribly annoying. (SURELY NOT?) We were never close enough in age to have fights (except for that one time when my brother hit me in the face with a wire hanger for touching his model airplane) so my experience in this department is lacking.

      But I think they like me okay now. Our favorite past time is getting together and telling hilarious stories in front of our mom to torture here. Brothers are good for something!

  2. Aren't kids funny? Although my kids never cut someone out of a picture or vowed never to play with them again, the neighbor kid made that vow numerous times when they were little. It never stuck more than about ten minutes. With girls, I think it could stick several days. But boys? Back at play in minutes.

    1. Up until a couple weeks ago we had several neighbor boys living next door and I am always amazed how resilient their relationships were. They'd go fight or argue or whatever and then almost instantly work it out. I am forever quizzing every parent I meet about how their kids get along. I'm sure I drive people crazy. Almost always the answer is "don't worry about it so much, this is normal."

  3. My boys were 18 months apart, and though they did squabble on occasion, they have each other's backs! Now at 38 and 40, they still disagree on occasion, but they are also still good buds!

  4. Your friend that will know you the best and longest is your sibling. The one who you will fight with the most is your sibling. The one who will always love you because of the connection will be your sibling. We are connected by the womb. However I know of some who hold grudges that can never be repaired and it is the saddest thing in life. I will never understand that as only my brother and sisters share our parents, our best memories, and our history. Siblings are the greatest gift our parents gave us.

    Kids forgive and forget and life will go on.

  5. The emotions are pretty standard across families i think but you boys' expression of them is OUTSTANDING. You know you are in a family when you not just cut out and taped back in but also crumpled and stained from being in the bin with the teabags.

  6. Somehow spelled 'your' wrong twice there. Damned ergonomic keyboard.

  7. Cool story, well told. The dynamics exponentiate with each additional sibling. I have three brothers. I'm lucky to be alive.

  8. This story reminds me of how real kids see their works on paper and how real stories are for them. It's very emotional to be a kid!

    I had one older brother who loved to beat me up. My mom's only rules were no hitting above the neck and no kicking the spine. It made me incredibly tough and violent. In a good way.

  9. Kids hear things in stores, in class rooms and from us. What we tune out, they pick up on. He probably heard someone say something simple...like "He's out of the picture now"...and his mind took it to mean just that.

  10. Replies
    1. The comment verification for your blog is veRy difficult to read, and I even have an eXtremely good display.


Tell me what's on your mind!