Yesterday, just as I was arriving at work, I got a call from the Mother of my Children.
Oldest Son is living at her house full time since he graduated from high school. MomC is now working as a substitute teacher, so she has to be out of the house early in the morning. We're paying Oldest to get Youngest Son to school in the morning.
She told me that Oldest had called. Youngest had said he was sick and didn't want to go to school and they were arguing. She said that Oldest was yelling and Youngest was crying and saying Oldest had hurt him, and she wasn't sure everyone was safe. She wanted me to go see what was happening. I a said I
When I got there I asked them what was going on. They both started talking. I stopped them and told Youngest to tell me first. He said he was sick and couldn't go to school. He said Oldest had picked him up out of bed. He said Oldest had grabbed him by the arms. His arms and back hurt.
I had him show me his arms. There were no bruises. There were no red marks. I told him he was ok. He said it really hurt. I said it was like getting hit by a soccer ball, or falling off his skateboard. It hurt now, but it would be fine.
I had Oldest tell me his side of the story. He said Youngest wouldn't do what he was told, and he got made at him.
I turned back to Youngest. I told him that he was not going to be the one to decide if he was too sick to go to school. Neither was Oldest. If he was sick he need to call me or MomC and talk to us. We would decide if he could stay home or go to school. And if we told him to go to school, he would go to school without arguing. If we told he to go to school and he didn't, I'd come over again, and that wouldn't be good. I asked him to tell me what the rule was, and he repeated it back to me--if he felt sick he had to call me or his mom. We would decide. I asked if he would follow this rule, and he said yes.
Then I turned to Oldest and went through the same thing. I also told him that he would not pick up Youngest or grab him. I said I knew he wouldn't intentionally hurt he brother, but that he is big and strong, and when he is irritated or angry he forgets how strong he is and could accidentally hurt someone. I asked him if he would follow this rule, and he said yes.
It was now 5 minutes after school starts, so I sent Youngest off.
I stayed a few minutes and talked to Oldest. He said the problem is that Youngest won't do what Oldest tells him to do. I asked him if he does what MomC tells him. He said yes, eventually, but MomC isn't really in charge of him, she's only in charge of the house. I said he lives in her house, and she pays all his bills (except the ones I pay), so she is in charge. Then I said that she's told me she asked him to help around the house and he doesn't.
I asked if him if, when he was in Boy Scouts, there had been older Scouts who he wanted to be right. He said there were. I told him that little brothers are like that--they want to be like their big brothers. If his brother sees that Oldest doesn't do what he's told by his mom, then he will think he doesn't need to do what he's told by Oldest. He said he'd never thought of that.
Then it got really interesting. He asked me if I thought MomC was easier on Youngest than she'd been on the other two. I started to say yes, then thought better of it. I said it could be that she is. But I don't see MomC and Youngest together very often, so I'm not the right person to answer that question. His aunt or his cousin would be better. He said that she (his aunt) agrees with him on that.
We talked about the fact that Middle Son usually does what I tell him to do. He often ignores what MomC tells him. I've always been careful about what I tell Middle to do. If he doesn't do something I tell him to do, I will take him by the hand and lead him through doing it. Over the years, he's realized that when I tell him to do something, we are going to do it whether he likes it or not. MomC never established that with him, so Middle feels free to ignore her.