Thursday, April 16, 2015

The State of Brotherly Love

I decided I hadn't really posted in detail lately about the relationship between the boys.  Clearly that's been a sticking point for the two years and two months that Carter has been in our home.  While I don't see any sort of full resolution coming anytime soon, I do think that there's finally a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.  Getting to that light is going to be a very hard-fought proposition, however, but just knowing it's there makes a big difference.

When Carter was born, I truly had no idea how Jacob would react.  I thought he'd either love to have someone to laugh at his jokes or shoot pucks at, or he would absolutely despise this new invader in his house.  It turns out that neither of those things happened, at least not right away.  I still say that the moment Jacob walked into my hospital room and saw me holding Carter, a switch flipped.  He wouldn't go near him.  It was almost like, "Holy cow, what is THAT?"  We tried to give him a heads-up on what was coming, but we didn't really want to scare him either.  Kids freak out more if you make a big deal, so I think we erred on the side of simplicity.  Not that anything could have truly prepared him, mind you, but perhaps we should have done more.  And if I could go back in time, I'd definitely not have been holding Carter when Jacob walked in.

When we got home, we went through a solid year of indifference.  Jacob pretty much just ignored him.  I mean, he had moments where he was mad that I wasn't available, or maybe annoyed once Carter got more mobile and Jacob's toys were around, but for the most part he didn't talk about him and didn't acknowledge him.  We have a couple forced, painful pictures of Jacob holding Carter, and that's about it.  Heck, if you ask Jacob about our trip to Disney, he will seriously insist that Carter wasn't there.  I really think he just blocked him out.

Once Carter really got moving, things got harder.  Jacob got crankier about his toys and his space, and Carter was making himself more known around the house in general--curiosity, talking, general naughtiness, etc.  Jacob took notice and seized every opportunity to point out Carter's faults.  Jacob's complaints would frequently include the mention of not wanting Carter in our house.  He'd often do something to purposely frustrate Carter, or even hurt him.  Most of the time I don't think he did things with the purpose of truly hurting him, but rather just putting an obstacle in his path or stopping him from getting in his personal space.  He didn't really understand that those things could really hurt Carter, and he didn't really seem to care even once we told him.  Those issues are still a really big problem between the boys, and it's only getting worse now that Carter is stronger and more mobile.

Incidentally, I couldn't help but laugh the other day when I drove by our old house.  I go by once in a while, as it's a very short detour on my drive to pick up the kids, and sometimes I just like to see if anything has changed around the house or the neighborhood.  For the first time, I actually saw people outside!  I saw two kids running around the yard, and the mom standing on the porch step with a baby.  I couldn't really gawk so I didn't get a really good look, but it hit me as I was driving away that they could possibly have three kids in that house!  When they moved in I know they had a boy about Jacob's age.  Our move was five years ago, which means they could have easily had two more kids.  I can't even fathom having three kids in that house.  Storage was minimal, the rooms were small, and we felt a bit tight with just one kid.  The mere thought of the second was what prompted us to get that house on the market, pronto.  Our living room now is huge, and sometimes even it doesn't feel like it's big enough for both kids.  I can't imagine how they'd fare in the tiny living room we had, and I know the hardwoods would have taken a serious beating.  My linen closet alone is quite possibly 10 times bigger than the one we had in that house.  The old house's basement storage was decent, but a far cry from the huge crawl space we have now.  I know there's something to be said for keeping things minimal, but a) I think that can lead to wastefulness (i.e., getting rid of baby clothes before having another baby); and b) I still don't think we had a ton of stuff and I felt quite claustrophobic there near the end.  Anyway, the thought of these two boys in that little house made me laugh!

Currently I spent most days with the boys feeling like a referee.  Carter always wants to be around Jacob, and Jacob usually wants nothing to do with Carter, so we're constantly having to shut Jacob's door or are physically pulling Carter off of Jacob when he's trying to hug him or play-fight.  Jacob still isn't very gentle with Carter and has a tendency to not take Carter's body parts into consideration when he's trying to restrain him.  I definitely feel Jacob's pain, because if I had someone doing that to me (oh, wait...I do), I'd be pretty annoyed too.  We try to remind him that if he proactively tried to play with Carter, he'd keep Carter entertained, off of him, and away from the stuff he doesn't want him to play with.  They're constantly battling over toys or sports equipment that may have once been Jacob's but have been passed down to Carter as Jacob's use for them waned.  But of course the second Carter touches something, Jacob goes on the defensive.  Jacob gets mad if we force him to share food (i.e., a chip from a bag of potato chips) and accuses us of always making him give up stuff for Carter.  We've tried to be mindful of that, but at the same time, we know a six-year-old brain is much more capable of coping with something like that than a two-year-old brain.  And, quite frankly, Jacob is convinced Carter has cooties so I highly doubt he'd even want something Carter was holding, food-wise. 

Anyway, despite the constant battles, I do see a little light at the end of the tunnel.  The boys have been able to play sports together a little bit.  Once in a while Carter gets invited up to Jacob's room for a mini-lacrosse game, or Craig finds opportunities for Carter to participate in outdoor sports.  Last night Jacob even helped Carter get a toy out of the garage when we were playing outside.  Helping his brother?  That might have been a first!  Also, they have gotten into some giggle-fests in the back seat or at dinner where they just crack each other up, but the downside of those is that I'm usually the one who has to tell them to quiet down because it gets very loud, very silly, and ultimately very deafening and/or distracting! 

Slowly but surely Jacob will see that Carter has the ability to play, and hopefully he will finally get that this little brother thing isn't so bad.  Strangely enough, Jacob seems to have it in his head (sometimes) that he'll get to that point, too.  He talks about how Carter can't play Wii until he's four, to which I respond that he'll be surprised how functional Carter will be as a three-year-old.  Of course, I do worry that as he gets older, that number will continue to climb because things are always relative.  For example, his brother will always be four years and eight months younger.  So when Jacob is turning 11 and his brother is around the age he is now, will Carter still be considered an annoying kid in comparison, even though right now Jacob considers himself a pretty capable and cool big kid at the same age?  Still, Jacob has talked numerous times about wanting to share a room with Carter someday.  I don't know how that is even logical in his head since he never wants Carter near his stuff right now, but he thinks that when Carter is older it will be better for them to share a room and leave Carter's room for guests.  Jacob's room is big enough, I suppose, but I still haven't quite figured out his logic for this.  I personally think having one's own space is a great thing, and I honestly think the age difference would make sharing tough as Jacob gets into the tween and teen years.  I wouldn't be opposed to letting them have sleepovers or whatever if that will bring them closer down the road, but I still find it intriguing that Jacob thinks about sharing a room with someone he claims to not like.

Now that Carter's personality has come a lot more into focus, it still holds true that they couldn't be more different.  Carter's daycare teacher (who had Jacob at the same age) agreed wholeheartedly when we were talking the one day.  It's not that Carter isn't a full-blooded high-energy two-year-old.  He just has a much lower key background to his energy that allows him to stop for hugs and randomly sing songs.  Jacob's brain is always going, so it's no surprise he was hard to keep up with at Carter's age, both mentally and physically.  Jacob was all sports all the time, and Carter loves a little of everything--sports, cars, animals, play food, etc.  Carter gives the best full-body hugs and is always concerned about other people.  It's really priceless sometimes when he asks where Jacob or Daddy is.  He definitely has his tantrums, though (including an epic one through half of Wegmans the other day when I denied him a cookie), but I know better how to handle them, and in between the meltdowns things are a lot more blissful than the downtimes were with Jacob.  Jacob's behavior is a lot better right now (particularly in comparison to a year or 18 months ago), and although we still have major issues with him listening and taking direction, I feel like we're in a good spot right now with him. 

I love my boys and celebrate their differences, in part because as my memory ages it's going to be way easier to keep their stories straight, and I continue to hope and pray that their relationship will grow as they get older.  I hope Jacob discovers his protective older brother side, and that Carter learns to give Jacob the space he needs.  I don't know if they'll be sharing spontaneous hugs anytime soon, but a little family harmony when they're in close proximity would be a great start.

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