When I last wrote about Jay and Wally as brothers, Jay was alternately dive-bombing Wally’s bassinet with a basketball and scaling our bedskirt to reassure his wailing brother, “It’s okay, I come back.” Their relationship has only grown more schizophrenic since then.
This morning Jay, who’s been potty training for a week now, sat on his little plastic john and said: “I want to poop on Wally.”
I replied: “How about you poop in the potty. That would be a first, too.”
Pooping is just the start. Jay has requested permission to pee on Wally, to break his bones, to feed Wally to the monkeys, and to spit on him. Except, with the spitting he didn’t ask for permission—he just did it, twice, and as a result was sent to bed at 7pm on Friday night with no dinner, no playtime, and not a single hug or kiss. (Alright, fine, he got a kiss.)
But there is sunny news to report as well.
Jay is not a very affectionate kid. Hugs cramp his style. Kisses are a nuisance. The only time I’ve ever seen him treat a stuffed animal like a companion was when he put his rabbit in time-out for breaking a Lego tower that Jay himself had destroyed.
Yesterday Jay woke up from his afternoon nap (which, btw, is majorly back on track thanks to some award winning fatherly cunning…more on that later) and sat next to Wally and me on the floor. Jay wrapped his hands around Wally’s head, smushed his brother’s face into his chest, and nuzzled his cheek against the top of Wally’s soft, sweet head.
This happens several times a day and Caroline and I always praise it: “Oh, you’re such a good big brother, Jay.” But really we have no idea what’s going on. How does the nuzzling square with wanting to poop on Wally? And what to make of the fact that Jay has never nuzzled a single other object in his entire life? It just seems too good to be true that this small beast who took his place at his mother’s breast would be the one true object of Jay’s affection.
Most weekend mornings Jay runs out of his room and climbs into bed with Caroline, Wally, and me. It always breaks my heart a little when he bursts into the room all sunny and full of morning vigor and sees Wally and Caroline lying in bed together like illicit lovers: How could he not feel left out?
But if Jay feels hurt he doesn’t show it. “Where’s Wally,” he says, as he grabs hold of the duvet and pulls himself up onto the bed. He climbs over Caroline’s legs, declares that he wants to go “in the middle” and wedges himself between Wally and Caroline.
“Hiii Wally,” Jay says in a cheery, high-pitched voice, applying his palms to his brother’s temples and pressing his nose square into Wally’s. Caroline tries not to interfere too much but she does temper the pressure on Wally’s head.
Finally, when the affection verges on trauma, she pulls Jay away and asks him if he had any dreams last night.
Any theory about Jay’s feelings with respect to Wally would probably miss the mark, at least a little. The arrival of a younger sibling is a complicated thing and Jay’s emotional world belongs to him alone, if it belongs to any one at all. But if it were possible to parse every one of Jay’s actions to an emotional cause I imagine we’d find a little bit of everything coursing through his hot toddler blood: a desire to get a rise out of us with his poop threat; a real wish, from time to time, to leave Wally out in the cold; at least a measure of genuine affection that I hope will grow over time to define their relationship.
And maybe, also, a hard kernel hope that manifests as a nuzzle, even when the intended object isn’t really his brother’s soft hair: “If I love this baby who Daddy and Mama love, then maybe they will love me.”
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