Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Be sweet to your little sister . . . or not.

My son can be a sweet boy. Recently, when my wife told him she loved him, he turned to her and said in a sweet voice, “Awwwww, such a precious mommy.” We have no idea where he got that, but it was sweet nonetheless. Another example of the potential he has to be sweet was one recent afternoon when my wife was generally not feeling well, he went and got her a cold glass of water without her even asking. He just wanted to help his mommy feel better.

Unfortunately, with his little sister, some of his sweetness evaporates. I guess this isn’t all that uncommon. The fights my brother and I had as children have legendary status. I wasn’t necessarily a sweet big brother, in fact, I was downright mean. At some level, I probably feel some sort of guilt for trying to torture my brother (although I have a difficult time finding it), so I want my son to be a different big brother . . . a sweet big brother.

The good news is, our son isn’t usually overtly mean (although he’ll occasionally take things from her and refuse to share – and drawing blood is only an occasional consequence). Like many younger siblings, our daughter clearly looks up to her brother. She often follows him around the house and mimics his behaviors (unfortunately, this includes both good and bad behaviors). On one recent occasion, she followed him into his room in an effort to get him to play with her. He was clearly annoyed by this and certainly didn’t want his little sister tagging along, so he picked up one of the dogs toys, threw it out of his room and yelled, “Fetch!” I’ll give him points for being creative, I would just yell at my little brother, “Get out!” and push him out of my room. What is most interesting is that our dog doesn’t even fetch, so what made his think his little sister would fetch is anybody’s guess.

Despite this, we continue to parent him to be sweet to his sister and we believe he will eventually grow to understand she’s not just a pest, but his loving little sister. In fact, just recently, my son found a bag of M&M’s in the house. Chocolate being his third favorite food group, following closely behind cookies and Cheetos, he did not delay in tearing the bag open and digging in. Suddenly, without warning, my son found the sweetness he so often displays for us and, without being told, offered to share his M&M’s with his little sister. Has it finally happened? Is he warming up to his little sister, anxious to serve her and share with her? It was finally here, the moment we were waiting for, the moment we knew would eventually come. He’s not me, he’ll be a good big brother.

Then, while our daughter was momentarily distracted by this surprising turn in generosity, he ran. Yes, he ran and hid so that he could finish off the rest of bag without the hassle of having to share with that little pest we affectionately call his sister, the kindness just a simple diversion. Baby steps, right?

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