Having six boys, we have quite a culture of testosterone in our home. Wrestle first, ask questions later. As my older boys grow into men, I hope that they will be a good influence on the younger ones. Teach them to respect their mom, stand up for their brothers, and protect their sisters…stuff like that!
However I have noticed a different type of influence that is not always good. The oldest boy would relentlessly pick on the second to youngest one. I would explain to the Oldest that I understand that the Second Youngest can be very annoying at times, BUT the truth of the matter is, “You were very much like him at his age. You looked very similar and had very similar behaviors. Your Dad and I didn’t call you mean names or criticize you did we?” I ask.
“No,” the Oldest answers.
“So give him the same courtesy,” I say.
My logical explanation seems to have little effect on his behavior as the bullying continues. I begin to notice that the Third and Fourth Oldest are learning the fine art of bullying. I am distressed.
Other behaviors trickle down the line such as writing on clothing or sneaking candy and stashing the empty wrappers behind the washing machine. A love for fishing, violent video games, and BB guns flourish. When the Oldest joins the delayed entry program of the Marines, the other boys pick a branch of the military that they will join someday. Even the Youngest is being encouraged to follow his dream of being a paratrooper.
“I don’t want ALL my sons to be in the military,” I yell out. What is a mother to do?
As the Oldest spends more and more time with his Marine recruiters, training physically and mentally for boot camp, I notice a change in him. He is maturing. He is becoming more honorable and more truthful. He is becoming more respectful…most of the time.
Dental Health has never been very important to the Oldest Brother. Dental Health is very important to me. I used to brush each child’s teeth after each meal. As they get older, they must brush their teeth themselves of course, but I still remind them quite often.
“Have you brushed your teeth?” I call out to the Second Youngest who is rushing out the door for school.
“Yeah, Yeah,” he answers.
I suspect that he didn’t. I suspect that he hasn’t brushed at all in the past week. I need to pry open his mouth and check for myself but there he goes…halfway to school already.
One day I witnessed firsthand the power of the influence of the Oldest Brother. We were all sitting at the dining room table eating a meal. When we are done I try again to preserve the teeth of my children.
“Everyone, brush your teeth!” I call out.
No effect. No indication that anyone has heard me speak.
Then a new voice declares, “You should really brush your teeth, you know.”
It is the knowable voice of the Oldest Brother.
“I didn’t used to brush my teeth at all,” he continues, “but then I saw this picture of what happens to your tongue when you never brush. I almost puked right there! The back of the tongue was growing mold, fuzzy mold!”
“Really?” the younger brothers are very interested, “Show us! Show us!” they beg.
He whips out his phone, finds the picture and shows them all.
The younger boys do not walk, they RUN to the bathroom to brush their teeth. In all my years of mothering, I don’t think I have ever elicited such immediate and wholehearted compliance to one of my instructions.
The cool Oldest Brother has a power that even he doesn’t totally understand. May it always be a force for good! Now that the Oldest Brother is in boot camp, may the core values of the Marines be the driving force behind his awesome power of influence.
And just a little bit of good housekeeping and proper dental hygiene.