Making Time: Giving Direction
From big brother to little

“Adam, I’ll give you a dollar if you let me borrow your balloon.”

My head was on an immediate swivel as Sarah stopped Brandon in his tracks and said, “No you will not.”

If there was any doubt, Brandon is clearly my mini-me. He’s only 6 years old this month and he’s already negotiating with his little brother like this? Mind you, this isn’t the first time. Just a few weeks earlier, Brandon was offering to let Adam pick which TV show to watch if Adam would let Brandon play with a new toy he wanted to try. But how did it happen so fast?

The irony is that it’s a flashback for me, because I did this pretty regularly to my younger brother growing up. Only instead of a dollar, I would negotiate things “for life.” Instead of alternating who sat in the front seat of the car, I convinced my brother to make a deal with me where I ended up with the front seat “for life.” My brother, being the stand-up guy he is, went along with it and sat in the back without a complaint until my parents figured out what was going on and put a stop to it. And that wasn’t the only “for life” deal. Making my bed, folding the laundry and cleaning the dishes were all fair game for my own version of let’s make a deal.

So how has Brandon figured out the same tactics I used at such a young age? And what should I do about it? Should I even really get into the middle of it?

After hearing Brandon’s offer, Sarah put a stop to it and looked over at me. My eyes rolled at the same time as hers, knowing what was coming next. I’ve told her some of my stories from growing up. At the time I thought my Mom was letting me get away with some of the stuff I did. She later let me know she didn’t, and I was just naive enough to think she did.

Brandon’s orders to Adam didn’t stop at merely trying to buy support. He’s the typical older brother so he’s been commanding his little brother around more often than not it seems. It doesn’t matter whether it’s explaining where to put his toys (like exactly where to put them by standing over him saying “right here” with a point). Or whether he is telling Adam that he can’t have dessert if he doesn’t eat his dinner (while Brandon is often in the process of not eating his own dinner).

Even though he says he is just helping us out, we remind him that there is only one Daddy and one Mommy and that his role is Brandon. And his job is not to tell Adam how to do things, how much to eat, or when dessert is earned. All he needs to worry about is playing together, being imaginative, being responsible and looking out for his brother.

More amazing to watch is Adam’s varied responses. On the one hand, he has absolute admiration for his brother. More often than not he’ll completely follow along. If Brandon gives instruction, Adam will listen. Actually, Adam will listen to Brandon better than he listens to me sometimes. That’s until he doesn’t want to listen to anyone anymore, because Adam is currently the twoiest of 2 year olds. He has started pushing back on the commands and direction from his big brother (and just about everyone else). Which is a relief on some level, because the more I watch, the guiltier I have felt about what I put my brother through.

As I watch this all go down in front of me, I’m still trying to learn how to let them be siblings and figure it out themselves. That doesn’t always go smoothly, and sometimes ends with a “sorry bro.” At the same time I’m also working on making sure Brandon doesn’t try to be too much like me and take advantage of his little brother’s admiration for him. I guess I’ll just have to keep listening and watching to make sure we have no “for life” deals coming from my boys. And I think I might drop another apology to my own brother too.

Read More “Making Time” by Jason Springer


February 2023
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