Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parallel Universe

OK, maybe you can't see it in these pictures, but there is a calm, consistent evenness in the two with light eyes, and a devilish, resistant streak in the two little dark-eyed cuties. I have come to refer to the boys and the dogs as siblings, but only lately have I really seen the parallel of their relationships with each other.

When the boys come home, the first thing I do is get them a snack and sit them down to do homework. The first thing Ben does is complain. He avoids, distracts, wanders off and generally resists what he is supposed to be doing. If I tell him to clean his room, he heads down the hall, only to be discovered a half hour later playing with some toy I haven't seen in months. He remains surrounded by clean and dirty clothes, LEGOs and books on the floor and beams up at me from his unmade bed. It's as if my every request is a chance for him to do the opposite of what I want.

At first, I thought I was just being too sensitive, taking his actions too personally. But the next time I walked the dogs, I found Bailey responding to my every request, and Flash "digging in" and pulling in the direction opposite of the one we were trying to go. The more I pulled, the more he resisted. But when I let the leash go slack, and stood to watch him, he stared back at me with those dark-chocolate eyes, and then proceeded to join Bailey and me in our original direction, bouncing along happily as if he'd made his point and would now let it drop.

Call me crazy, but I really think this is universal behavior for second children. Or in the case of the dogs, the pooch who has been relegated (demoted?) to second-dog status. Someone was here before you, someone smart, sweet, cooperative, potty trained and easy to be around. He's a tough act to follow, so you'd better carve out your own little niche, showing everyone in every way that you are nothing like that guy who was here first.

Flash is a jumper, a barker, a hoverer. He does not like to be told what to do, and will give 110% to accomplish whatever you told him not to do. He follows Bailey around when he wants to wrestle or play with him, nudging and throwing himself under Bailey's nose to get noticed. If Bailey isn't in the mood and tries to wander away, Flash follows hot on his tail, barking relentlessly, as if to say, "Play with me! Play with me! Play with me!" You would think that Bailey would finally give in, just to get the little bugger off his back. I mean, it's not like he can go into his own room and close the door.

Finally, though we have taken pains to make sure both dogs receive all things equally--food, treats, beds, toys, walks and lovin'--Flash still wants what's not his. He curls up in Bailey's bed. He chews on Bailey's rawhide. He drinks from Bailey's water dish. And the look on poor Bailey's face seems to say, "My life was perfect! Why did you have to give me a little brother!?"

Alas, such things are always a good idea on paper, especially since we never consult with those who will feel the change most keenly. But I also know that, if either of my second "children" were suddenly the only one in the house (if Jacob were to go off to college, say, or Bailey got drafted), the younger one would be lost. They both define themselves by who they are in relation to their older "brothers." And as much as they all seem to annoy each other, the truth is they all love each other very much.

Though they'd never admit it, in this or any other universe.

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