There are plenty of times–memorable times–when siblings go wrong (more about that below). But this is one lovely time when siblings went right. Naomi got stung by a bee while we were biking at the Halswell Quarry, and we had to turn around and come home. “You know,” I told Milo, as he complained about not getting to finish his ride, “your sister is TOUGH. There aren’t many four year olds who would bike home after getting stung by a bee.” He must have taken it in, because later I overheard him repeating this boast to Jeremiah. He also switched from “little sister got in the way of me doing what I wanted to do” mode to “caring big brother” mode, even reading his school book to her.
Other days, it can be more like this:
“It’s school crossing!” Naomi informed me.
I glanced out the window in time to see Milo run down the driveway with his friend Cameron on his heels. His mom and sister rounded the bend. This looked official. I opened the front door to field the inquiry.
Milo rushed at me: “Can Cameron come over this afternoon?” he demanded, before darting off on a circuit of the yard.
“The boys were hoping for a play date.” Clare stated the obvious. “Milo could come to our house.”
“We want to play in the tree fort,” Milo put in. Hum. There’s no tree fort on offer at Cameron’s house.
“Ah, yes….well, Cameron can stay here,” I offered.
A couple minutes later Milo came raring around the corner, brandishing Naomi’s new stickers in triumph above his head while she squealed in protest. “Milo! What are you doing? Give that back to Naomi! One…TWO…..! He threw the sticker sheet in her general direction, then stepped on her container of beads, spewing them down the hallway. “Milo! In your room!” I pointed menacingly and took a threatening step toward my son. He sprinted to his doorway and stood there, grinning. I gave him a few minutes, then went to talk things over.
“Milo, I won’t let you be a bully. In order to come out you have to say you’re sorry to Naomi for snatching her stickers, then you can pick up the beads and put them in this container.” I thrust a plastic jam jar into his hands. He tossed it on the floor. “Well, that’s what you have to do; say sorry to Naomi and pick up her beads.”
After several unsatisfactory attempts at a sorry I let a cursory attempt stand, reminded him about the beads, and retired to the living room.
“Naomi, I’m going to put your beads out the window,” I heard his gleeful voice taunt from the dining room. I ignored the threat. Often he’s just angling for attention. The noise crescendoed, and upon investigation I discovered beads in the weeds below the window. Incredible.
“Is he like this when he goes to your house?” I asked Cameron, shaking my head.
“No.” Cameron widened his eyes.
I thought of the studies of social structure with chimpanzees where dominant males tear around the group, chasing their comrades up trees, tossing sticks into the air, beating their chests and generally making a miserable racket.
That’s exactly what Milo has been doing this afternoon. Asserting his dominance on his home turf.
We’re no better than apes.