Sometimes I react first, and think second. Sue me, I’m human.
I’ve always tried to teach the kids to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Isn’t that the lesson Dawson and Downey teach us in “A Few Good Men” after being sentenced for executing a Code Red on PFC Santiago?
Here’s what happened.
Gabe was playing in the yard with the Aerobie with two unnamed friends. They, of course, were throwing the disc too hard and too far. It was going into other people’s yards, over fences, and into shrubbery. I’ve already been in half the trees in the neighborhood on rescue missions for this thing. I was trying to mow the lawn. I suggested that they’d be better served in the big open park a block away, where they’d be able to spread out. They went. Shortly afterwards, Jake hopped on his bike and followed.
Maybe 20 minutes later (just long enough to finish the front lawn), Gabe came flying down the street on Jake’s bike, with his two accomplices trailing behind on foot, with cats-who-ate-the-canary smirks on their faces. As I was asking him why he was on his brother’s bike, I began to hear Jake hollering from the direction of the park. “What?” was Gabe’s only response. You know the “what” I mean. The one where he knows darn well “what.” By the time Unnamed #1 arrived, he said, “We car jacked his bike! We bike-jacked him!” I ordered Gabe to return the bike. He, being ten and smart enough to recognize a whooping when he sees one, propped the bike on its kickstand and ran for the border. It wasn’t even that Gabe and his friends had taken Jake’s bike, it was how damn smug they were about it. It really bothered Jake. He had gone to play and had been betrayed.
I dumped the clippings onto my utility trailer and rounded the house towards the jungle that is my back yard. I discovered Jake half on top of the three boys, having captured them and smooshed them into submission. “Two wrongs don’t make a right, Jake!” #1 was saying. I told them they had it coming. If you pick on a big kid and get caught, you have to be prepared to face the consequences. Justice was being served. Or was it?
I had just started working on the back yard when I realized that #1 was right. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I couldn’t condone the big kid smooshing the littles, even if they did kind of deserve it. So, I sent the extra kids home and ordered my own into the house.
Only after Beth got home did I learn that Gabe had been a snotty little brother that morning before school, and warned that one more offense would cost him his iPad for a day. When I asked him about this at dinner, he claims to have forgotten. Sure, Pal. Sure.
I admit to being pretty steamed. I’ve repeatedly taught the kids that you don’t have to make someone feel small to feel big. You need to stand up for, and speak up for, those who cannot do for themselves. This seemed especially important when Jake was nonverbal. Now that he’s a teenager, and is becoming quite aware that he has no friends (more on that in an upcoming post once I figure out how to discuss it without getting too emotional), he needs his siblings more than ever to FACILITATE friendships with neighborhood kids vs. add strain to them. Another family lesson is being smart and brave enough to choose what’s right over what’s popular, no matter how hard.
Or, on the other hand, is Gabe just being a dipstick little brother who is picking on his big bro? If Jake was neurotypical, would I have just chalked it up to “boys being boys?” Or, and I think this is the third hand now, does Jake’s intellectual and developmental disability automatically negate the “boys being boys” argument? Do those rules apply to him? Which ones do and which ones don’t?
Why isn’t there a manual for this stuff?
So now Gabe’s grounded from his device, and I owe him a long talk over toast tomorrow morning, after I’ve had a chance to assimilate my feelings. I know if I post this at 9:30 at night, I won’t get much feedback from my readership, but typing it out is therapeutic in itself. Thanks for being my sounding board. I’ve got to sleep on it.