Author: Jim Van Slyke
When I watch my two sons play, I'm constantly reminded of the phrase, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." I'm also thankful that my oldest son isn't a mean and nasty bully who would use any excuse to turn his younger brother's face into Silly Putty.
Aidan, age 7, is nearly 5 feet tall and weighs about 85 pounds. His 4-year-old brother, Kyle, while tall for his age, is only about 40 pounds. However, Kyle doesn't think there's a size difference - or at least he never acts like it. There are times when he attacks the unsuspecting Aidan with a ferocity usually only seen on the plains of Africa when a lion takes down a wounded gazelle. Kyle knows no fear - unless he's being encouraged to try a food he's never seen before.
Aidan can be lost in his own world, playing with his LEGOs or enjoying one of his favorite books, with Kyle lurking nearby. Kyle might actually be doing the same thing as Aidan. In fact, they might actually be playing nicely together. But if you look closely, you can see Kyle's eyes change from a complacent "I'm playing nice with my brother" expression to one that best resembles how a housecat looks when he realizes an easy-to-catch bug/mouse/piece of yarn has come into striking range. He can be quite deceptive, luring Aidan in with a calm sense of playing quietly together before launching into a lion-like strike coupled with a war cry that rattles our windows.
It drives my wife nuts because she - rightly - doesn't want anyone to get hurt, but most of the time it merely amuses me. There's not much Kyle can do with a simple tackle that's going to hurt his much bigger and stronger brother. Sometimes Aidan will just shrug him off and Kyle retreats around the corner of the bed to await a better opportunity. Other times, Aidan will just hold him off with one arm while he keeps reading or playing. Nothing but an injury or a strong word from his parents will dissuade Kyle from his plan of attack. Well, except maybe a cupcake.
Kyle, of course, is the one who gets hurt much more often than Aidan. There have been times when he totally misses Aidan on attempted tackle runs into a wall. There are also times when an attempted tackle takes Kyle's head into Aidan's knee, elbow or other hard body part. But after a minute or two of tears, Kyle - to his credit - is ready to strike again.
Aidan seems to have a big brother's understanding of both keeping his brother safe and teaching him the rough and tumble ways of boys. He doesn't always remember that he outweighs his younger brother more than two-to-one, but I think that's understandable given Kyle's ferocity of attack. I've seen Aidan's eyes get really big as his brother charges as fast as his skinny legs will run, armed only with a crazed look on his face. But Aidan usually just absorbs the blow and sends his brother back the opposite way from which he came.
Such are the lives of brothers. I only had a sister growing up and other than fighting over what TV show to watch I don't think we sparred over much. She certainly didn't sneak around the house, plotting the best place to strike from while I played with my G.I. Joe action figures. And I knew that all she would do is yell "Mom!!!" if I tried to surprise her with a blindside attack as she played with her dolls.
In a strange way, these surprise attacks are good for the brothers. Kyle gets to learn the art of subterfuge as he tries to take down a much larger opponent and Aidan learns how to defend himself from a smaller opponent that he doesn't want to permanently damage. This will sound strange to a lot of people, but it's all about limitations. They'll eventually come to the understanding - mostly through their mother and me getting on their case to stop - what is OK and what's not.
I'm sure my wife and I will see a lot worse from the boys as they get older, but I'm hoping that if Aidan and Kyle form a rudimentary Mutual Admiration Society that they will never turn each other into punching bags. Because, as I remind Aidan all the time, Kyle won't always be half his size. He might even be bigger.
BY JIM VAN SLYKE
Source: Tidewater Parent Magazine