Disclaimer: Just to clarify before reading this post, I want you to know that my oldest son, A, is one of the sweetest, smartest, kindest, funniest, big-hearted kids in the world. He really is. But he is like every other 4 1/2 year old with a younger sibling - a ruler of all things.
When my 2 ½ year old, E, fell down some stairs a few weeks ago and came less than an inch from slamming his face onto the ground, I knew that his brother, A, truly did love him. Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic (about the stairs and his brother’s love), but don’t you ever wonder how much truth (if any), there is in all the terrible things your older child sometimes says to his or her younger sibling?
It started when E was about 1 and A was 3, and A constantly talked about putting E in the trash so the trash man would take him away. Of course, he didn’t really know what he was saying, but still! Where do they come up with these things? I guess it all goes back to 3-year old human nature where everything is “mine” and anyone standing in the way of “mine” (ie little brother) should just not exist - or exist far, far away.
Then A went through the phase where hitting was the only problem-solving solution, as was screaming and sometimes pushing or completely shoving. My hubby’s co-worker, who has FOUR children, was recently telling hubby how he wondered when his second child was born if that child was normal. He wasn’t sure whether or not his child had a bit of devil in him, or if hitting, yelling, pushing, and occasionally biting his younger sibling was “normal.”
My hubby just laughed, as did his co-worker when he told hubby that the next two kiddos they had were exactly the same. It’s true – kids under four are simply irrational, emotional, and beyond impulsive. They say what’s on their mind, they have physical responses to most things, and they seem to hang on to the very small amount of “power” they think they have over their younger sibling.
For this very reason, my 2 ½ year old, E, is super easy-going. A can be, too, in his own way, but E is so used to being bossed around, having things grabbed right out of his hands, constantly steered and directed, that he has learned to just roll with the punches (sometimes, sadly, very literally). Reminder of Disclaimer: These events do not define who my son is as a person. They simply reflect moments in his (and every other 4-year old's), life.
So when we were at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, and E tripped on the last three stairs of a big staircase (caught an inch from the ground by another mom with cat-like reflexes), he cried with giant tears, belting out all of his fears and hurt feelings with giant siren-like sobs.
I ran to comfort him, and A was right beside me. As I checked out E’s face to make sure he hadn’t indeed hit the floor (I saw the whole thing and was certain he hadn’t hit the floor, but still, I had to make sure there was no blood), A had the most worried, on-the-verge-of-crying look on his face that I had ever seen.
He was horrified. It was the way E was crying. For the first time, A really didn’t know if he was okay. The fear on A’s face, the urgency in his voice as he asked me over and over if E was okay, his crinkled-with-worry eyebrows and bouncy body (he couldn’t stand still…he had to know!) told me that he was truly upset and worried. Don’t get me wrong; when E’s pain is A-inflicted, there is so much focus on A getting in trouble that I tend not to see his worry. But this was different. This was really the first time E cried this way after nearly getting hurt very badly. And A didn’t like it.
E’s cries were louder than blow horns in my ears, so it took a minute to redirect my focus to A’s questions, but as soon as I did, I said, “Yes, A, he’s okay. He just got scared. He’s fine.”
A smiled and said, “Ya, E (while rubbing his arm), you’re okay.”
And off he went into the other room to play. But in that moment – one I may never forget – I was happy to see A’s response to the situation. I feel like he really got a taste of what it would be like if E had actually gotten hurt. And it confirmed to me that there is no tiny devil living inside of my older son (which, of course, I already knew ;) . He’s just 4 :)