It was bedtime. Peter was not listening. My wife literally pushed him out of his bedroom like a football linesman on a blocking sled. She got him to the bathroom door, denying him further bouncing on the bed, in an attempt to get him to brush his teeth. Losing stories had already been threatened twice. He squirmed away and went to jump on Jack’s bed. Jack watched, bemused, as he brushed his own teeth.
Tag! It was daddy’s turn.
“Peter, get off the bed,” I said in my best deep daddy voice. He shook his head no. Unaccustomed to this level of defiance, I went to my DEFCON 2 voice. “Peter. Get off the bed. Now. Or it will be no stories and Daddy will be mad at you.” He gave me what can only be called a shit-eating grin, stepped away from me on the bed, and said, “No!”
Yeah. That would be DEFCON 1.
Moving swiftly, I snatched him from Jack’s bed with the patented Parent Arm Grab(TM) and carried him to his own. His demeanor had suddenly changed. Crying, he tried to get out of his bed but I picked him up and flopped him back on the bed. I admit it, it felt good. It didn’t hurt him at all but let him know I was serious. He tried to get out again, and started saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I changed my mind! I listen!” But I told him it was too late, he missed his chance, and I grabbed him and put his head back on the pillow, and started tucking him in. Screaming, crying, yelling for mama, he went into full tantrum mode. Mama made a guest appearance simply to tell him that maybe tomorrow he would listen. No stories, we reiterated, while he wailed and apologized and screamed. Katherine and I had agreed previously that our little ornery jerk of a 3 year old had something like this coming to him, and the timing was right. Katherine offered to lie down with him, and I went to get him some milk which I knew might calm him down. No stories was a Big Deal, and he knew it.
On the way out of the room, I ran into Jack, looking very serious. He had brushed his teeth and was holding a book.
By the time I came back with a sippy cup of milk, Katherine was at the bottom of the stairs, beaming. “Listen,” she told me.
From upstairs I could hear Jack, in Peter’s room: “The mother bird sat on her egg. The egg jumped.”
“He was so upset that Peter wasn’t getting a bed time story, so he just came up to him and said, ‘I’ll read you a story, Peter.’ My buttons are bursting.”
We listened for a while, as Jack picked his way through Are You My Mother?, adding sound effects, making Peter laugh, and otherwise Fixing The Evening for everyone.
Peter is certainly in the middle of his pain in the butt stage. Jack has his whiny or trying moments too. But Jack has always shown an incredible amount of empathy for other people, especially his brother, and is one of the first to reach out and take care of him (when they’re not beating each other to a pulp wrestling.) And Peter, stubborn as his rock of a name suggests, really responds to it, too. How dare these kids make us fall in love with them again? We’re trying to be angry! Oh… okay.