A few days ago, I had one of those parenting moments when I was witness to a memorable, touching exchange between two of my three sons that made me think, “oh yeah, that’s why I had more than one child.” It was a scene that I will always remember but I am fairly sure it has already been forgotten by both of my kids. But, that is okay. My hope is that their poignant connection will serve as a model for future brotherly love.
“Middle Bear” was scheduled to have his annual check-up at the pediatrician. “Baby Bear” had already staged a protest with his firm, “I’m not going. I’m staying home.”
You see, Baby Bear had spent the past six years being toted, strolled, hauled, dragged and basically forced to accompany his two older brothers to every soccer and baseball game, all doctor, dentist and orthodontist appointments as well as the countless school pick-ups and drop-offs. At the ripe old age of six, Baby Bear finally became enlightened and realized that it was just plain boring to be the sideshow to the other two main events. He’d rather stay home and play or watch tv — anything other than having to get in that car again. Lately, I had resorted to creative motivators (ie, bribes) to encourage him to join me and his brothers. “I’ll get you a big cup of vanilla with rainbow sprinkles!” I’d promise with the most enthusiastic sing-song voice. That worked great for my ice cream-aholic son the first few times. But, the Ben and Jerry’s reward was starting to lose its power and frankly, it wasn’t doing me any good either when I would also comfort myself with a cone of chocolate chip. Miraculously, this time I came up with the most ingenuous reason as to why he should come to Middle Bear’s checkup.
“I need you to come with us to the doctor because you have to tell Middle Bear that his shot won’t hurt. You have to show him what a brave boy you were when you got your shots.”
Baby Bear suddenly broke into a wide grin and said, “okay, I’ll go!” as if I offered him a trip to the candy store.
Middle Bear had a growing fear of vaccinations and the dreaded needles whereas Baby Bear seemed to think it was no big deal to get a poke or two in the arm. I had no idea how Middle Bear would react to Baby Bear’s encouragement but I figured I had nothing to lose, considering at last year’s checkup, the doctor had to threaten him with the possibility of being held down by one of the “mean” nurses.
When it was time to bring out the needle, Middle Bear grew pale. Baby Bear seemed to instinctively know that this was his time to take the floor.
“It doesn’t hurt, you’ll see.” he reassured.
“You can hold Baby Bear’s hand if you want,” I offered to Middle Bear, not thinking he would go for such an affectionate gesture.
Hearing my cue, Baby Bear reached out for Middle Bear’s hand and instead of swatting it away, Middle Bear swiftly received it and held on tight. Baby Bear’s pride was instantaneous and evident by his big smile and confident stance, as he watched his older brother in a vulnerable moment, shutting his eyes and chanting “Is it over? Is it over?” Baby Bear seemed to know this was a rare opportunity for him to have the upper hand, to be the supporter, to be the Bigger Bear for a change. It was a role reversal that was good for both of them, to see that they could each lean on one another for different things, that they each had their own strengths and weaknesses and that it was okay to ask for help, even from the littler bear. Although I knew that within hours, they would be wrestling, pushing, yelling, and arguing about whose turn it was to be the “pitcher versus catcher” or who had the remote control first, I was so proud of both of them for holding on (literally) and supporting each other at the appropriate time and place.
Those few minutes in the doctor’s office were a better reward for me than any ice cream cone could be. I think my Bears would agree.