Brothers’ Keepers

Surely the most ironic thing that has ever crossed the lips of a parent dropping their school-aged child off at daycare with a younger sibling are these: "Thanks for taking him today–actually, he's really very helpful with the little ones."
Newsflash: Older siblings are rarely, if ever, helpful with the little ones. Maybe at your house, but not here. 
Inevitably they will spy their drooling sibling sitting in a sunbeam catching dust-motes, heft him up under the arms and drag him across the room to me, announcing, "My brother is bored. You need to hold him." At which point the baby is no longer just "bored" but shrieking in agony because his arms are being yanked out of their sockets. 
They will take the spatula away from the teether in the highchair, and bring it to me–"That baby was chewing on your spatula!"
Me: "Yeah, and now look–he's screaming. Why do you think that is?"
Or my favorite: "Hey, my sister is hungry."
Me: "Really? I just finished feeding her."
"She wants ice cream."
And lo and behold, the formally content two-year-old sibling begins whining and, with a little more goading from the sibling, shrieking for ice cream. Or whatever else the older child has decided they want. 
Today a five-year-old girl picked up a five-year-old boy's lego project and it broke. He started crying, and grabbed it from her, catching a piece of her hair in the process. Now they are both crying. "He pulled my hair!" "She broke my rocket!" It might have ended there, except almost eleven-year-old brother comes barreling across the room and shoves the other boy. "Leave my sister alone!" The other brother sees what biggest brother is doing and comes running. He tears into his sister's "attacker" too, all limbs flailing.  And of course, the "attacker" becomes just that. He starts defending himself in earnest, provoking more familial loyalty and further reprecussions. 
All this in about ten seconds. Just long enough for me to set down the stew pot and cross the room. I put all four of them in separate corners, invited everyone else to the table where they ate everyone's favorite meal of all time, while the four in the corners looked on. Unfortunately, they had to wait until everyone else was done eating for their turn to come around and by then the melon was no longer truly ice cold and the chicken fingers weren't very warm. If you can't get along with other children, you can't eat with other children, right? And if you're old enough to actually care about the temperature of your chicken fingers, well, you should be old enough to stay out of arguments that have nothing to do with you, correct?
Two more days until school starts. 
Not that I'm counting down, or anything . . . 

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