I never had a big brother growing up. I had two big sisters who were constantly getting us in trouble, but that is a little different. I always imagined big brothers as these quiet observing figures that were always there to protect you no matter what. At least it seemed that way from my perspective. I always wanted a son first so that one day he could be a big brother to whomever came after. Although my youngest came 11 years after his big brother, I hoped that the essence of that role would still be ingrained in my eldest; that he would grow to love his brother and keep him safe no matter what.
To be honest, my teen never showed any real interest in his little brother for a long time as they had such a huge age gap. It has only been through the last year that they’ve began actually enjoying time together since tot is getting better at communicating and likes to help big brother a lot. I’d talked to my teen about the importance of family and siblings multiple times, but it never really seemed to sink in until well… yesterday.
Yesterday was a day like any other day. We gathered up our books from the library in our eco-friendly bags, tot had his reading passport filled out for Level 2 and was getting his 2nd prize for the summer and we headed off to the local library. There wasn’t anything abnormal there. Tot and I got his prize and went looking for books, he was really excited and clapping because he found That’s Not My Pirate on the For Sale shelf and we got to buy it for .50cents. Teen wandered off and got his books and then sat down in the chair by the movie racks like he always does, reading his Manga. Then we checked out the books and movies and left.
Except something did happen that went unnoticed by everyone but my teen.
While tot was clapping and being excited over the book he found and I was looking over other possible take-homes, two women standing over by the movies where my teen had been sitting decided to take it upon themselves to make fun of my 4 year old. While making crude gestures of his clapping, guffawing at his over excitement and discussing how he was “wrong in the head” my teen had sat there and listened.
When we had got to the car, my teen seemed to slump down in the seat. How I didn’t previously notice his face was so red and almost in tears from being angry or upset or both. He told me what happened and after my initial desire to storm back into the library and smack those women, I sighed. I knew it wasn’t going to do any good, but I knew I could make something good come out of it.
I told him that it is an unfortunate thing and more than likely it won’t be the last time he overhears something about his brother. I told him about the few times I’d dealt with people taking their kids away from little tot when he couldn’t really talk and mimicked all the kids, when he was pushed down multiple times at the library because he didn’t understand the other child wasn’t playing with him and other times I’ve seen looks from children and adults alike. He said to me, “I’m used to it when I hear people making fun of me. I just never thought they’d do that to Judah.” In his mind his little brother is just a tiny extremely happy child, what would there be for people to make fun of?
Difference, I said. Difference.
While Judah is young his peculiarities are amusing to some people, cute to others and normal to us because that’s just a part of him. As he grows older you’ll see more and more people find those same things not amusing or cute anymore, regardless of their normalcy to us. Although we’re more than positive he will become better at language, cognition and understanding because he is extremely intelligent, he will always be who he is and that difference will always make certain people uncomfortable. This is what I explained to him.
I was driving. I saw him turn and look at his brother who sat behind me watching the cars go by. There was this silence where I could feel this awakening to the reality of the world outside of home, where cruelty happened to extend outside of high-school bullying and not even little children were safe from harassment. He turned back around and softly said, “It’s not right.”
Acknowledging something is not accepting it.
Since yesterday morning he’s been more attentive of his brother, asking questions about how he’s doing since he was sick last night. Maybe in some way he found a kinship as they both endure some from of bullying or another, but I like to think that he has finally found the importance of his role as big brother.
I always say things happen for a reason. As much as it hurt to see my son after the incident, I think that it brought him closer to his little brother. It gave him a peek into the difficulties we know we may face in the coming years as tot learns to navigate his way through peer groups. I’m glad that my little guy will have someone to look up to, someone who he will know will protect him no matter what, because that’s what big brothers are for.
I couldn’t have dreamed of two better sons than the ones who have picked me as their Mom.