Yesterday, I told my five-year old son to pretend like his little brother (3) is a puppy. I wasn’t trying to get them to role play, though that’s not a bad idea. “OK, Silas, you’re the owner and Arlo, you’re the dog. Now use your imagination and go play, but no choking, OK?” I can imagine a child psychologist recommending something like that. “You should encourage your sons to engage in fun, make-believe play that forces them to cooperate.” That wasn’t my intention. Instead, I was simply attempting to help Silas understand why his brother goes “CooCoo Bananas” or “All Spazzy Mcgillicutty” as we call it.
“Sometimes Arlo just gets really excited and gets out of control. Kind of like when a puppy is super happy, he gets overly affectionate and bites you. Do you get mad at the puppy?”
That’s apparently the desperate state of things lately; in order to prevent my older son from becoming annoyed by all the pinching, pulling, pushing, occasional biting, and other spastic antics, I have to explain to him that his brother is no different than a hyper house pet.
“You just need to understand that when you play with Arlo, he might get so excited that he pees all over your shoe.”
Honestly, I’m not even sure Silas has ever played with a puppy. That would explain why he just stared at me and walked away when I offered the analogy.
We’re simply trying to achieve a modicum of harmony any way we can. At the moment, getting Arlo to pipe down is way more challenging than convincing his older brother that scratch marks are the price of membership to a loving household. Admittedly, I fear he might go to school and say, “My brother pinched my eyeball, but that’s ok, because he’s an animal and we’re a family.”
I can hear you:
“Discipline your child! What if he actually hurts his brother? Do you know how many germs are in saliva? What if he scratches the mailman? What’s next, are you going to let him drink whiskey and drive a tractor on the highway? You have to be stern and let him know you mean business! I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU!”
I hear you, and thank-you. We’ve obviously tried, and continue to try various types of discipline, but in case you haven’t been around a 3-year-old boy in a while, they don’t really get the concept. Usually Arlo thinks we’re either abandoning him, playing some kind of game, or threatening to torch the iPad. Three year-olds have difficulty understanding threats or warnings because, to them, there’s no time between “now” and “always”. I know that because almost every night, Arlo says he’ll “Take bath tomorrow” and then conveniently forgets.
He’s in the moment and there’s no stopping him from seizing the bejeezus out of it. The best we can do is float along with his zen stream and realize that, occasionally, the canoe will flip over and we’ll all hit our heads on the jagged rocks. Kids aren’t wild horses…Actually, they’re pretty much exactly like wild horses, especially when you try to put a saddle on them. But I don’t think we should try to “break” them like we do wild horses. Not only because it’s frustrating and difficult for everyone involved, but also because I’m 40, and way too tired to break anything on purpose.
“You’re gonna pay for this later when he won’t listen to you!!!!! I’M AFRAID FOR YOU AND SOCIETY!”
The idea of that doesn’t bother me. I don’t listen to myself either, so maybe we’ll have that to bond over.
He’ll eventually learn to control the Spazzy Mcgillicutties. If he doesn’t, we’ll be sure to get him involved in wrestling, cheerleading or student government.