Nineteen months separate our two sons. Their personalities and approaches to life are as different as they come, but a unique connection seems to be building.
In some ways, their relationship is like most brothers. There are ups and downs and disagreements over silly things. However, the brotherly relationship between Beckett, 12, and Carson, 11, is unique because of our younger son’s special needs. He requires patience and the oldest kid in the house is not one who has a lot of that to spare in his cup most days. Therefore, some days they only spend a few minutes together.
While it’s an up-and-down journey with them, there is no question a true family relationship exists and it’s real. They love each other and are buddies. It’s just a unique situation.
Beckett looks for Carson as soon as he walks in the door after school or sports practice. He always jumps on him and Carson screams like he’s being brutalized. If you’re not in the room, it’s easy to think Carson is in severe pain. When you walk in the room, I usually find Beckett just resting atop Carson, who is lightly slapping himself and screaming in an attempt to get his brother in trouble. It worked the first time years ago. Beckett just laughs, and they goof around together like that for a few minutes.
Every morning Beckett seeks Carson out when he comes downstairs in the morning. Because of how the timing works for everyone getting to school on time, Carson is always eating breakfast. Beckett fakes as if he is trying to steal Carson’s food followed by a couple laps of chase around the house.
During the evenings, Carson loves running through Beckett’s room and trying to embarrass him in front of friends either in person or on Facetime. He runs in with his shirt off, puts the “L” sign on his forehead with his hand (like calling him a loser) and dances a bit. I’m told it’s from Tic Toc or YouTube or some show. I watch it unfold as Beckett says, “Boy you better get out of here.” Carson swats at him before running out of the room giggling. It’s a happy relationship.
I am told by other friends who have brothers in close age range there are a lot of competitive issues. Brawls break out over backyard football games and driveway basketball games. This is not how it is at our house. Beckett is better at most things than his special needs brother. However, Beckett champions Carson’s strengths, of which there are many. He does it subconsciously.
For instance, while forcing the boys to help us in the yard last weekend, Beckett, who detests manual labor, told his brother to push the wheelbarrow full of mulch. From a bit away, I heard him cautioning Carson not to fill it up too high because it will be too heavy. Carson kept filling it up, and Beckett told him he would have to huff it up the hill. When Carson shrugged why, Beckett said, “because you’re stronger than me.” I then watched as Carson began the trek and the wheelbarrow fell over. They both ran giggling and hid behind a tree. When I came upon the mess, they each pointed at each other, leading to a small shoving match. It was natural. I then tasked them to find their mom and help her.
While their differences are vast, it’s healthy to focus on the positives of their relationships. The uniqueness and unfortunate aspects of their dynamics are evident to Beckett. He doesn’t have a little brother to play with in the backyard. They can’t go one-on-one in basketball unless Beckett is willing to throw the game and let Carson win. If Beckett tries hard, Carson will get frustrated and make a scene. Therefore, Beckett never involves him in any sport. He will not intentionally lose. Carson can’t handle the competitive aspect.
What has developed though over the years is a real relationship. They are brothers. There are limitations due to Carson’s unique needs. Beckett resents his brother at times, but he has innately developed a protective relationship over him. It’s been a true joy to see this nature develop over the years.
It’s okay for him to make fun of and be mean to Carson at times, but he has asked permission from his parents to fight anyone who ever treats him poorly because of his disabilities, including the fact he does not talk. It’s the latter point he seems especially sensitive to and I get it.
I think it’s human nature to want to protect the most vulnerable among us. Carson will need this sort of oversight from his brother throughout his life. Pam and I are Carson’s biggest champions and protectors now. Beckett will one day serve in the role in some capacity. It doesn’t seem lost on him, as he asked what happens to Carson after we die later in life. We caution him not to worry about those sorts of heavy aspects in his young life. We tell him we have a plan. It says a lot about his heart that he thinks about these eventualities.
For now, I like to watch them as they play out typical boy antics. Last night after lacrosse practice Beckett rushed into the house jumped atop Carson. Beckett was sticking his armpits in his brother’s face when Carson had a moment of flatulence that resulted in 10 minutes of laughter. The teenager inside me couldn’t help but join them.