sibling rivalry

Tattle Tales

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.

What now?


Havoc is a Curious Little Monkey

Zeke and I were sitting at the table together, paper and crayons spread out, in the midst of a late afternoon drawing project. Jack was napping and Zeke and I were enjoying a little one-on-one time.

Jack is like a Monkey,” Zeke said to me.

I smiled and agreed. My mind was flooded with images of Jack: his mischievous smile, his signature dance move– one foot stomping as he pumps his fists and turns around in circles, the wild energy with which he runs up and down our hallway. He is like an adorable, crazy, silly, wild, little monkey. “Ohhh my little monkey!” I thought tenderly.

Monkeys are rude,” Zeke said. “And they take people’s stuff.”

Well, that wasn’t where I was going with it, but he had a point, I guess.

I mean Jack is a handful— an extremely charming and adorable handful, but a handful nonetheless. There is a reason why Aaron nicknamed him Havoc.

I can’t evereverever leave the bathroom door open. If by some chance I (or some negligent visitor to our apartment) leave the door ajar, Jack immediately senses the lapse in security and, with ninja stealth and speed, makes his way in. (This is amazing from someone whose pounding and uncertain toddler steps create an uncommon banging, slapping racket– I apologize daily to the woman who lives downstairs and I thank my lucky stars that she is older and possibly hard of hearing. “Pitter-patter of little feet” my ass!)

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.
When Jack is finished stocking the sink, he moves directly to the toilet paper, unrolling it with impressive focus and sense of purpose. Jack has perfected his technique and can get from new roll to cardboard tube in mere seconds, leaving cascading white streamers from one end of the bathroom to the other.

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,

No Jack! That’s my special (fill in the blank)!“,

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.

And yet
though Jack wreaks havoc on our world on a daily basis,
there is no way I can feel anything but elated
when he gives himself up into laughter.

His radiant smile whenever he first catches sight of me….

The way my tiny son pauses in the midst of his busy flurry to throw his arms around my legs and cover my thighs with kisses…..

The way he searches our apartment for his brother, “Zeke? Zeke? Zeke?” and then embraces him in triumph when he finds him….

The way he emulates Zeke’s enthusiasm, crawling and meowing in cat mode, or joyously throwing his entire body into wild dancing whenever he hears a catchy beat. Jack dances to music from passing cars, to ringtones, to the rhythm of street construction….

I guess, like all of us, monkeys are multi-faceted beings, and
I am more than willing to put up with havoc for the sweet life with my sweet little Havoc.