Certainly, this was no accident. We wanted our children close together in age so that they could grow up together.
Somedays we bang our heads against a brick wall wondering what we were thinking. Then there are the days that are sunshine and roses and we remember why we were happy they would be brothers growing up together.
Eli started beating on Keegan about the time he started moving. Ok, not really beating on, but certainly took advantage of being the bigger brother. We warned him it would come back to haunt him but it never occurred to us that Keegan might take the brunt for much longer than we anticipated.
Eli was always very dominant with Keegan. He needed to play a certain way, he couldn’t touch Eli’s toys, he wasn’t allowed to make up the rules.
For awhile that was ok with Keegan. Having a big brother to look up to was pretty cool. Then Keegan found his voice.
He wanted to pick the game that was played. He wanted to win sometimes. He wanted to choose the story that was read. He wanted to be the boss sometimes.
All siblings have this struggle. Typically the oldest wins out. I won’t even go into some of the things my sister and I used to make our brother do… John, if you’re reading, I’m glad you still love me!!
Somehow we began to recognize that this was something more.
It became more evident after Eli started preschool and started having problems adjusting, around the time he started therapy and SPD became a part of our everyday lives.
Keegan seemed to always catch the brunt of Eli’s meltdowns. He would lash out at Keegan and hit him, push him, yell at him. And Keegan started to fight back…
Keegan fights dirty for anyone who was thinking of taking him on. He pinches faces, he sits on top and pushes faces into the dirt, he cries to try to get others in trouble. Hell, this is the kid that bit Eli’s lip and punctured a hole so that we had to rush to the pediatrician’s office (thankfully they were open and we avoided the ER!) and get his lip glued back together. Let me take a moment to defend him on this one though. The boys were playing dinosaurs outside (pretending to be dinosaurs) and Eli shoved a handful of leaves into Keegan’s mouth to get him to eat them… All I’m sayin’ is don’t piss the kid off!
When the day is done, he truly loves his brother. He wants to be with him and do the things he does. It becomes really hard for him to understand why he can’t go to therapy – it looks like SOOOO much fun! He doesn’t get why we make him sit down at the table but don’t always expect the same of his brother. He wonders why Eli has a special blanket that he doesn’t have. He mimics Eli in public restrooms by covering his ears and complaining of the noise. Most of all he sticks up for his brother when he starts to recognize that he’s having a bad day.
Eli’s bad days often manifest into a total meltdown that begins with yelling and ends with full body sobbing. He has started yelling in Keegan’s ear and in his face when he’s mad at him. Keegan gets mad but doesn’t fight back. When Eli gets to the sobbing point Keegan immediately wants to comfort him. He doesn’t yet understand that Eli doesn’t want to be near him so they end up fighting more because Keegan just wants to help. He will talk gently to him, use the words that he’s heard me use a thousand times. He wants to calm him and make it all better.
Being Eli’s brother is not always easy. Keegan gets picked up from school early to go pick up Eli from school in order to get to therapy on time. He takes the yelling and screaming. He puts up with his brother sitting right next to him because he needs the pressure. He loves his brother and cries hysterically when I inadvertently speak the thought out loud that sometimes I want to ship Eli to Zimbabwe.
On the hard days we question if Eli would be different if we had chosen to not have Keegan. The answer to that is a resounding YES! But we can add to that response that it wouldn’t be a change for the better.