My wife, Lisa, and I were talking in the kitchen recently about what dish we would make for an upcoming potluck lunch at our church. Meanwhile, 4-year-old Sean and 15-month-old Jeremy were running around in the living room.
“We could make that salad with the onions and peas that everybody seems to like,” she said. “Sean, get off Jeremy.”
“Yeah, this group’s never sampled that before,” I agreed.
“The problem with making something hot is that there’s no place to keep it warm for three hours until we need it,” Lisa said. “Jeremy, no biting.”
“We could try to get keys to the kitchen, and maybe we could hold the lunch there,” I suggested.
“We could, but that’s awfully short notice for everybody,” Lisa said. “Jeremy, no head-butting Sean.”
On and on the conversation went, with every comment Lisa made ending with, “Sean, no hitting.” “Jeremy, get off of Sean.” “Sean, get off of Jeremy.” “Jeremy, no biting.”
Finally I just had to laugh. I got up to see what all the commotion was about in the living room. Sean and Jeremy were just running around like, well, like little boys. They weren’t even mad at each other.
Our sons are turning every night after dinner into a World Wrestling Federation event. I can’t wait for the next caution: “Sean, no folding chairs to the head.”
Part of the problem is that our younger son, “Stone Cold” Jeremy John, is such an enabler. When Sean “The Undertaker” Mark has him on the ground slapping his tummy or gently head-butting him in the chest, Jeremy cackles and howls with glee, which, of course, makes Sean do it even more.
Every potentially harmful contact Sean makes with Jeremy is greeted with coos and giggles. Jeremy loves it. Lisa and I, on the other hand, are ready to pull out our hair.
Welcome to the world of little boys, we’re told constantly.
Sean just finished a five-week Tiny Tots soccer class offered by a local recreation department for 3- and 4-year-olds. The class teaches soccer fundamentals, including dribbling and ball control no games or competition.
One of the assistant coaches has the children chase him around for a minute or two to get their muscles loose. They love it, of course, but when you have 20 children chasing one teen-ager, somebody inevitably is going to stumble.
I noticed right away that when this happened, all the little girls in the chase invariably detoured around the fallen child. None of the little boys made any such effort. In fact, they detoured into the pileup. The number of wriggling, giggling little boys usually would reach double figures, like fish flopping around in a net, before the adults would start pulling them off each other.
Great. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with Jeremy being a daredevil all by himself, now we have to worry about the toxic potential of his playing with Sean. Hardly a week goes by that Jeremy doesn’t pick up some bruise or bump all by himself. Now we get to worry about the damage he can inflict on himself with the help of his older brother while they’re playing.
Parents of other little boys seem to understand this perfectly. At a local McDonald’s one day, a mother watched impassively while her two boys, each looking slightly older than Jeremy and Sean, wrestled and battled each other in the play area’s ball pit. I watched, too, hypnotized by the strange feeling that I was gazing into a crystal ball.
Another mother wandered in with her two girls in tow. The three of them watched the battle royal in the ball pit for a few bemused seconds, then continued on to their seats to eat. The mother was shaking her head with a slight smile, as if to say, “Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that.”
The boys’ mother finally dug them out of the pit and started to put their shoes back on. Sean jumped in, and I grabbed Jeremy to keep him from following. The mother looked at Jeremy and his bruise du jour and smiled. I told her, almost abashedly, about the friendly brotherly battles going on at our home these days.
She just smiled and said, “Wait till they get to be teens and start fighting over the same girlfriends.”
Uh … check please.
Mark Stewart is the father of two boys, Sean and Jeremy. He is a staff writer for the Family Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.