Jealousy is the brother of invention

The other night Liam built a lego ship that looked like this: IMG_0001IMG_0002

What prompted him to create this all-black gunship, piloted by a man dressed in black, right down to his black slouchy hat? ?

Rage, pure and simple. He’d come home from soccer camp to discover that his brother went to the Lego store and got a cool new set and built the set himself and we’d publicy praised that accomplishment. (Let’s see. His brother got a 45$ toy for his school achievements, Liam got a week of soccer camp. Yeah, I can totally see how Liam feels ripped off.)

Liam looked around, got all Caleb Caleb Caleb and stomped into his room insisting that NOTHING WAS WRONG.

Thunderbrow emerged for dinner, slunk back into his cave, and re-emerged about 45 minutes later with his jet-black creation.

Curiously, we didn’t applaud his creation, perhaps because as he was showing it to us, he managed simultaneously to disparage his brother’s achievement.  Anybody can follow the directions, but I did this myself, he said, in a voice dripping with disdain (both my kids do disdain with a skill that Oscar Wilde would envy).

Ah sibling rivalry. A poisonous little snake that oozes out and coils around both boys, more frequently than I’d like to admit. It wasn’t the toy that pissed Liam off the other night; he says he’s really beyond mere sets. What made him angry (aside from losing a soccer match earlier that afternoon) was the fact that Caleb had been able to build something pretty damn good without Liam’s help — and that means that in Liam’s mind, there is suddenly competition for the household title of Best Builder.

Caleb, of course, only wants his brother’s approval — it just kills me, sometimes, to watch him trot after his brother, holding out his latest invention, hoping that Liam will toss him a few words of praise.  If praise isn’t forthcoming, however, Caleb spares no mercy: he has been known to hide key pieces in a fit of pique, or to jostle something fragile “on accident, really!”

It’s good, I guess, that Liam’s jealousy manifests itself in something creative (clutching at straws here); it beats the shit out of what Cain did to Abel.  God knows my siblings and I had our own share of arguments and rivalries (none of which ever resurface at holidays or family visits, of course), so probably I shouldn’t be surprised that as Caleb grows up and claims more of his own territory, Liam is starting to wonder if there’s going to be fraternal claim jumping.

There isn’t really a solution for sibling rivalry, as near as I can tell. All we can is show the boys that they can both be really good at lots of things, and that there is enough (love, admiration, legos) for everyone. It sounds cheezy, in an everybody-gets-a-trophy sort of way, but isn’t that the ultimate worry–that the other one is loved more?

So tomorrow I’ll praise Liam’s black ship of spite and Caleb’s spacecraft, and make room for both of them on my lap.  It ain’t much, but it’s the best solution I’ve got.

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3 Responses to Jealousy is the brother of invention

  1. Dick Horwich July 1, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    I’m thinking what it will be like for the boys to read this and similar blogs 20 years from now — to see themselves as objects of parental scrutiny, particularly since both their patents are trained professional scrutinizers. Will they share this experience, looking back fondly at Mom’s cluelessness? Will they be forced to recognize the truth of your conclusions? Will they say yeah, but where’s the love? Will you ever find out?

  2. a guy July 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    When you say that Liam knew you had “publicly praised” Caleb’s build, does that mean by blogging? Because it would be very glasshouse fishbowl to think that Liam is already aware of being a topic. Probably you just mean “saying it aloud,” which–by the way–in my family would absolutely have resulted in my little brother being beaten (by me) until he cried, and then beaten (by me) until he stopped crying.

  3. Deborah Quinn July 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    They will read these posts and wince, I’m convinced. On the other hand, neither of them has a “baby book,” those journals of momentous occasions (first tooth, first word, etc), so this blog is the closest they’re going to get. And as for “public” – that just means within range of Liam’s hearing. Although we added that much of Caleb’s prowess comes from his apprenticeship at his brother’s side. They’re either going to be amazing engineering architectural bridge-building wonders or really, really good safecrackers. I’m sort of hoping the latter b/c I think there’s more money in it.

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