November 10, 2010

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Most kids want to be original, reveling in their uniqueness, figuring out who they are through childhood and beyond, and showing it to the world around them.  Then along comes a little pipsqueak who copies them, in the form of a younger sibling.  With a six year age gap between our older son Scott and our twin boys Zach and Daniel, this is especially common and comes in a double dose.  Scott is very understanding about it now that he’s older, but as a younger boy we had to explain to him that it was completely normal, and that he should take it as a compliment.  He accepted that it was normal, but it took a little while to see it as something flattering rather than annoying.  Thankfully he never expressed his frustration to his little brothers, which would have crushed them.  He came to his dad and me about it, and we helped him through it.
We don’t see this kind of imitation as something to correct in the younger boys, though we certainly try to encourage each kid to be themselves.  But as long as they are copying an admirable trait or hobby, we’re good with it.  Scott is a well-rounded person who shoots rifles but reads books, can put together a great campfire but also once put together a computer.  Our younger boys look at these things and want to do them too.  But more importantly, Scott is a responsible, kind, helpful young man, and the younger boys follow his example.  They have their own unique strengths too, setting good examples for the rest of us.  But they’re only eight years old, still learning, growing, and being shaped and formed into the men they’ll one day be (as is their big brother.)  Zach and Daniel certainly listen to us as their parents, through direct instruction and correction, and learn by our example, for better or worse.  But they have ears that are especially tuned in to Scott’s radio frequency.  So we encourage him to bear it in mind and continue to set a positive example for them to imitate.
We’re sympathetic to Scott’s need to have some time on his own, and to be his own person without two mini-me clones running around.  We try to give him that and to not let the copying get out of hand.  But we’re also sympathetic to the little boys’ needs to have someone to look up to, someone to teach them how to do cool stuff, how to say cool stuff, and how to be as cool as their big brother.  We also know that he’s teaching them a whole lot more than that.  I know from experience what an impact a big brother can have on your life.  When I was young, I had the coolest big brother around.  And now Zach and Daniel can make that same claim.  And they’d be right.

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