Big Brothers


Being a big brother is hard.  You have to share the attention of your parents.  All of a sudden, there’s a cute little baby that everyone wants to hold and see, and you don’t have everyone fussing over you like they used to when you were younger.  Quinn got all of this and more when Marshall joined us.

I struggled over the past few days about whether or not to write this.  I’m addicted to the therapeutic feeling of getting things off my chest and into the blog, but I also don’t want to write anything that will upset Quinn one day when he reads this.  I do think he ultimately came through it amazingly well, and I’m so proud of my big boy.

But first, back to the beginning of the story.


“I think I need to poo.” (Hey, I’m giving you context.  And besides, if it was simply a number one, I would have just found him a bush in the alleyway.)

“Uhhh…we’re halfway home.  We’d better stop into the school.”  Panic enters his eyes.  “What’s wrong?  We can still get in.  I’m sure the after school daycare goes in and out.”

The fam

“Nevermind.  I don’t need to go anymore.”  I wondered if he was embarrassed of me, mostly because, if I remember correctly, we were being really silly on the walk home.  He answered that he wasn’t, but that he was embarrassed of Marshy.

I stopped walking and took a deep, deep breath.  Here we go.

We’ve had a few experiences where Quinn has heard his friends and schoolmates make comments about his brother looking different or funny.  I see it in everything he does when his brother is around him in the school area.  On the playground, he will stop moving, crouched on top of the structures, and watch silently when other kids come up to Marshall.  Often, the interactions are friendly and just fine, but he’s waiting for the inevitable.  It might not happen for a month, but now that he has experienced it, he knows it will happen again.

The hospital is a lonely place early in the morning

It turned out he wasn’t quite embarrassed in the way adults would use the word.  It’s partly (maybe mostly?) about feeling bad for Marshall rather than about Marshall.  Quinn doesn’t want Marshall to feel bad about looking different, “even though I don’t think he looks funny at all”, he added.

I crouched down and pulled him into my arms.  On the street, especially near his school, Quinn would normally not have the patience to endure one of my ridiculously emotional hugs (Bridget says she has never met someone who cries as much as I do, but I’d like to suggest that Kathie Lee Gifford cried a lot when she was on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, and Richard Simmons cried tears of joy every time he was on with David Letterman.  So, at best, I’m third.)

Therapy play for the hands

This time, Quinn put his head on my shoulder and left it there.  I could feel the weight of the topic in the way he just dropped his head onto my body, like it was too much for him to carry.  After ten minutes of talking about anything else (the vast amounts of fecal matter local dog-owners leave on our sidewalks, who’s more powerful – Spider-man or Iron Man, whether or not his BFFs will be ready to play outside when we reach our house, etc.), I asked if he wanted to talk again.  He didn’t say no.

“You know, he’s going to be at school with you in two years.”  Panic, again.  No, no, no comes the pleading from him.

Who is going to stand up for him?  He can’t make a fist with his fingers!”  Ah, I know what he means all too well.

“He’s going to stand up for himself.  He’ll be able to by then.  He’ll know the words to say,” I respond, anticipating his next worry.  “AND, he’ll have you at school, in grade 3!”  He suggests a few neighbours who will be there too, all of whom will undoubtedly by incredible friends and allies.  I’m still hoping I find a way to teach there in a few years if I still feel it’s in everyone’s best interests.

We left it at that.  Within five minutes, he was swinging from the impromptu zipline in our driveway (built by Bridget, some neighbours, and the kids on the block), painting his face blue, and laughing about who knows what.  But I know he took it in, and I hope he feels a little bit better about Marshall’s future.  I could be reading all of this into his actions and words because of my own anxiety, but I’m fairly certain Quinn has a deeper understanding of differences and what they mean than the average five year-old.

And yes, we made it home before he had to poo again.  You didn’t think I was going to leave you with unanswered questions, did you?

Showing me how he gives himself hugs



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