Our four-year-old has to be the hardest working preschooler in the baby-entertaining business. He is forever putting on shows designed to make his baby brother giggle. It is demanding work, as his baby brother has a definite preference for physical comedy.
Big Brother throws himself around the room in a fit of slapstick, always seeking to add fresh elements to his act. The moves that get the best laughs from the baby are repeated until the poor boy is out of breath and must resort to making faces until he claims his second wind.
After wearing himself out entertaining his little brother, the big boy throws open his arms and shouts, “Thank you, thank you, thank you very much! Show’s over, good night!”
But the show hasn’t ever been over, and I hope it never is. There’s nothing that compares to watching a boy work so hard to make his baby brother smile, unless it is watching the baby’s eyes glow with delight at the antics of his big brother. These are riches you can’t earn.
Having been both a little brother and a big brother, I understand that this era of good feelings won’t continue untroubled through the years. Increasing mobility leads little brothers into places within the carefully constructed worlds of big brothers where they become more annoying than cute.
The baby is already starting to form a black cloud around the horizon of his big brother’s world. He has developed a love for tearing up railroad tracks unseen since Sherman marched through Georgia. Whenever he can get himself near his brother’s train sets on the floor, he becomes a hatchling Godzilla, uttering baby dinosaur noises and throwing pieces of track over his shoulder with reptilian abandon.
Naturally, Big Brother does not appreciate the damage that Baby Godzilla is doing to his ecosphere. He appeals to the Japan Self-Defense Force (a.k.a. Mom and Dad) for assistance. What Big Brother doesn’t understand, because he is neither a veteran of the JSDF nor a parent, is that the authorities have settled upon a program of appeasement when it comes to rampaging Godzillas. Consequently, he often gets responses like, “Let the baby play for a while. We’ll rebuild it.”
It’s frustrating watching your infrastructure being destroyed. So far, our big boy’s frustrations haven’t turned to resentment, but he doesn’t know what’s coming. He doesn’t know that he will begin to build more sophisticated, hence more vulnerable, worlds. He doesn’t know that his brother will soon be able to walk easily between them, tugging at linchpins and kicking cornerstones.
He will learn these things in time. They will be hard lessons. I hope that he will also learn that his little brother imposes himself into his world because his world is fun and interesting, and most of all because his little brother admires him and all that he can do. It is an admiration that he did so much to foster, back in the days when he did pratfalls to make his little brother smile.
Thank you, thank you, thank you very much! May this show go on for a very long time.