Today the QB was trying to get both boys in the car to go to the Museum and she set the Monkey in his car seat and ran back into the house to get something (I was at school while all this happened). While she was gone inside Mr. Baseball buckled his little brother in and closed his door,opened the driver's side door for Mom, walked around the car, climbed into his own seat, buckled himself in, closed his own door, and waited smiling for the QB to come outside.
Later that day...
Mr. Baseball was asked to pick up a living-room-floor-full of toys by himself because he'd failed to pick them up earlier and as the QB and I left the room the monkey said "I help brother" and began picking up a pile of Lincoln logs. Mr. Baseball, who was not very happy about having to clean up all the toys was, nonetheless, apparently not interested in having any help from his do-gooder little brother.
"I'm supposed to clean it up by myself," said Mr. Baseball, irritated. And then, for emphasis, added "You idiot!"
I overheard him from the other room and couldn't believe my ears. Its funny what goes through my mind when Mr. Baseball says something like this: 'Why would he talk to his brother that way? Does he talk to people at school that way? I hope he doesn't talk to anyone anywhere that way. I have to make sure he doesn't ever talk to anyone anywhere that way?'
I came back in the room and gently asked him to join me on the stairs for a moment. We have been having lots of talks lately in the quiet of our stairwell and they've been going fairly well. The question is always this: How do I convey my disapproval in a loving way so that he understands not merely that I am disappointed, but why what he said/did was hurtful to his brother.
The thing is, Mr. Baseball is a good kid, a nice, kiss you on the cheek and hug your leg kind of kid whose biggest desire in the world is to playreadwrestledrawtalkbuildafort with you. He knows that words like that are hurtful, and he knows he shouldn't say them. It's difficult to know how much correction he needs. Sometimes I think we overshoot ("No TV for a week") and sometimes I think we're too lenient ("Next time please don't throw a stick at that man's face...now run along and play"). I don't want to merely give him a guilt trip, but rather I want to show him the results of his words and actions so that he can make decisions based on that knowledge.
What's really going on here at the most basic level is a recognition that Mr. Baseball struggles with a lot of the same problems that I do. He has the same short temper and easily bruised personality that resists authority and wants recognition for the good things he is doing without having to hear about the mistakes he occasionally makes. And also a recognition that when he calls his little brother and idiot, I fear that somehow he picked up the mind set (if not the word) from me, or when he throws a tantrum, or sneaks a candy or tells a lie or lashes out in some way that he is merely doing a five-year-old's impersonation of me at my worst.
One thing this recognition is doing for me at least is helping me notice how I tend to react to his negative behavior so that I can step back a little and allow a little objective distance between us when things get rough. It's also forcing me to acknowledge that in so many ways we are similar, and in so many ways we are different and that that difference is okay. It's worked well the past few weeks. I guess we'll just have to see what happens in the future.