Sunday, December 31, 2000


The Boy is, in a lot of senses, your typical oldest brother. (And, yes, B, I'm talking directly to you.) He's bossy, a know-it-all, and most devoted to procedure and routine. He's a close reflection of my personality: early to wake up in the morning, enjoying repetition in my daily life, and a deep, deep love of reading. He and I had a serious conversation yesterday: he was grumpy, out of sorts, and uncooperative all day yesterday for no good reason. He was just exhausted - he was going to bed a little too late and still waking up with me to exercise in the morning. Little boys require a lot of sleep, and he just wasn't getting it.

Weird thing? He was really, really excited about going to bed early so that he could get up with me. And, it worked, to an extent - I was up at my usual 5:00 this morning, but he didn't get up and moving until almost 6. We still had enough time for him to watch some Phineas & Ferb before we had breakfast together. I enjoy my mornings with him. It's a comfortable, easy silence that we share - talk a bit, watch television for a bit, but just enjoy being with each other. He watches me exercise, watches me take notes in my book, occasionally does the exercises I'm doing, and takes some careful steps on the elliptical machine once in a while. (I stand within arms reach of him when he does that - that can go south in a hurry). Sometimes, he sits at the desk (that's where my desk is for the days I work at home) and does some schoolwork. He usually bugs me (good-naturedly) to put the bench up in the "incline bench press" formation - that's how he likes to sit.

With his brothers, at this point, he's usually pretty good. He and Little Bear wrestle a lot. Pretty much, that's their default behavior position. That definitely runs in our family - my father will tell the story that, when we all met in a small town in Germany for my middle brother's wedding, the three of us boys and him were wrestling in the middle of the street. It's rarely serious fighting, although it tends to escalate quickly, depending on who is armed with what. With The Baby, he tends to be patient and will usually share reasonably well with him. Ultimately, though, he's a lot like me: very sure of himself, almost fatally so; very confident of his intelligence, and seems to be willing to work however hard he needs to work.

Little Bear seems to have taken the self-consciousness and embarrassment / shame that I and The Boy lack. Even at his age, he's very aware of the shame feeling and very apt to take setbacks and failings personally - his own personal failures that need some repentance. I have no idea where he gets that from - we don't punish the children often and, I must say, quite reasonably - and Little Bear hasn't been the recipient of anything more substantial than "go to your room until you're ready to be nice. At least half the time when we do that, he curls up in bed and goes to sleep. He recognizes the connection between being tired and misbehaving. However, when he makes a mistake playing violin, he gets very sad and upset about it, instead of - as we position it - using it as an opportunity to play the song again. The other day, I was teasing him like I do the other boys - "I can see your butt!" when he was getting dressed - and he threw a fit. He was truly embarrassed that I pointed out that I could see his butt.

That's kind of weird for a 4-year old. Granted, a large percentage of time, his response is to bend over, smack his behind, and say, "Look at my butt!" However, the embarrassment response happens often enough that it isn't a one-off. Between myself and my wife, I've always been the more hyper-emotional one - I'm way more sensitive than she is, and I tend to react more viscerally to things than she does.

As a side note for Little Bear, he read the entire "Pete The Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons" book at Barnes and Noble yesterday. He said he hadn't read that book - had read another Pete the Cat book, which makes it that much more impressive. That child is only four and not even in Kindergarten, and he's reading strange books independently. More amazing: the "My buttons, my buttons, my four groovy buttons" part was chanted in a song-like rhythm every time he did it. That's pretty amazing for a kid to pull that out like that.

The Baby and I had a nice moment last night. He had another late nap, which meant that he was awake until nearly ten o'clock. I took him downstairs around nine o'clock while The Wife was doing some schoolwork. He and I did some puzzles and read some books together. He's a delightful little guy! "Where's THIS piece go?" he'd ask, then study the puzzle intently. "Oh! THERE it goes!" We love doing the Look'n'Find books together. I'll ask, "Where's thi?" He'll say, "I don't know.... right THERE!"

He likes to get himself dressed in the morning, and he's very specific about what he wants to wear. He's following Little Bear's example and wearing Superman shirts when he can (shockingly, we have Superman shirts galore that fit him). He wants to get into underpants, but he's not consistent enough with the potty to do it. Little Bear has started a habit of taking his little brother to the potty, which is nice; The Boy wants nothing to do with that.

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