Zeke was quick to exploit the possibilities of having a younger brother with limited communication skills and a well-documented tendency to manufacture chaos. Jack was just barely walking the first time that Zeke came up to me shaking his head, arms crossed over his chest, and said in a familiar exhausted and conspiratorial tone,
“Mom, look what Jack’s doing now.”
I can’t venture a guess at the number of times I’ve entered the boys’ room to find that bin after bin of toys has been haphazardly dumped, rendering the room completely impassable. In the midst of the mess, I generally find the two of them all smiles, united in the thrill of mayhem. When I inquire about what on earth happened in there, Zeke will answer, his voice echoing my disbelief,
“Jack got a little crazy, Mama.”
Mmmm. Jack, huh.
Then there are the times that a blood-curdling shriek and hysterical sobs slice through the silence, stopping my heart and sending me running into their room. There I find Jack red-faced and howling, fat tears flowing down his cheeks. Zeke is generally about as far away from his little brother as possible, unconcernedly sorting legos or engaged quietly with a book. Attempting to get a clear answer about what might have happened borders on futile. Zeke frequently appears confused; he’ll give an exaggerated shrug, and say in a mystified voice,
“I don’t know what happened to Jack, Mom.”
At other times he is defensive,
“You didn’t SEE me do anything!”
Or he pleads no contest; sits voluntarily down in his white rocking chair, “I’m in time-out already!” and refuses under any circumstances to explain why he’s given himself this punishment.
But, with time, something that Zeke failed to anticipate has taken place. Jack started talking. And, many a time that I am confronted with one of these mysterious scenes, Jack is able to clearly communicate through his tears, exactly why he is so upset.
“Zekie scratch me!”
“Zekie hit me!”
or, once last week,
“Zekie bite me!”
When confronted with his victim’s clear testimony Zeke becomes visibly uncomfortable. He shifts his weight from foot to foot and his face zooms through a variety of expressions: outrage, innocence, confusion…..
No one told him his pesky little brother was going to learn to TALK! The balance of power has been altered and Zeke is no longer comfortably in control.
Once in, he gets right to work. With efficient focus he positions the stool next to the sink and begins tossing everything he can get his little hands on into it– toothbrushes, toothpaste, makeup, stray bath-toys… If we haven’t shut the taps as tightly as possible, he will then fill the basin, effectively soaking everything and destroying as many items as possible.
If upon the completion of these two important tasks he has not yet been discovered and ejected from the bathroom, Jack quickly moves to the toilet. (Speed counts here, because the resounding thwunk of the lid, as he slams it up, always gives him away.) The frenetic splashing and tossing of random objects into the water that commences always has an air of desperation, as if Havoc wants to get in maximum splashing before his time is ultimately up. Similarly, my bedroom door must always remain secure. Once inside Havoc heads directly for my jewelry box and begins tossing earrings and bracelets in every direction. He amasses a shiny pile of tangled chaos that has more than once reduced me to near tears.
Jack quickly develops an envious fixation on whatever his brother is doing. If Zeke is sitting in my lap, Jack will start screaming and try to push him off and take his place. Jack starts about thirty fights a day by grabbing a treasured knight figure or Spiderman toy, or plastic pteranodon, which has been carefully placed in an elaborate tableau constructed from blocks and random detritus. My peace-of-mind is constantly shattered by shouts of,
inevitably followed by slapping and tears. Sometimes it is Jack that is crying, but lately, it is often Zeke sobbing amidst the ruins of his carefully constructed fantasy world as Havoc emerges, clutching some plastic treasure, yelling, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” as he flees at high speed.