Sunday, April 22, 2012

Good Boy

We have had some major overhauls in relationships in our household this past month.  Usually Luccio and Isabella are the best of friends and Cenzo is not terribly bothered.  But, things are changing and Isabella is now in a position of major power with her two big brothers vying to be the BEST brother of all.

From the very start Luccio was very attentive to Isabella, holding her, helping with anything I needed him to do for her and playing with her.  As she has grown their relationship has really developed into a beautiful sibling bond.  He looks out for her, she takes care of him.  She refers to him as her "baby" and often tells me at the end of the day she needs to get her "baby boy" from school.  They snuggle on the couch, share toys and make sure each other is included in activities or meals.  When Isabella finds herself in trouble or anyone dares to tell her no, she runs straight to Luccio and tells him.  And he stomps off to handle the situation for her.   God help you if you have wronged his sister.  He is a Bear on a mission to defend her.  And I have been on the receiving end of his lectures when I have dared to cross her.  I have been told more than once she "is just a baby!"

Cenzo usually has a very different role.  He is the Alpha Male of our little pack.  He is 2 minutes older, but has no doubt  taken on the role of First Born.  He and Luccio have formed a great alliance and are best friends.  It works as long as each knows his place.  Luccio doesn't challenge for Top Dog, so all is ok.  As far as Isabella has been concerned, she understands that Cenzo is older and has an authoritative position.  She steps around him carefully and admires and respects him.  But, she knows how to play the game.  She won't step down during confrontation, she knows he will always give in to her because she is the baby.  So she carefully weighs the odds and counts on playing the baby card to get her way.  It works almost every time. And when it doesn't she yells at him and scares the crap out of him!

Cenzo was excited when she was born, he loves babies and was thrilled to have one in the house.  He is great about caring for her.  He fills her milk cup, gets her snacks, and looks out for her.  He is very loving and protective.  But, he has more of a boundary than Luccio.   Luccio doesn't really require personal space so he doesn't think that other people may need it.  He loves to sit on laps or be held or hugged or carried.  So he loves when Isabella wants to be snuggled or brush his hair or treat him like a little baby doll.  But, Cenzo is more aloof.  And Isabella knows it.

He is always polite to her and loving, but doesn't usually seek her out as an equal.  Lately it's changing. He is noticing Luccio and Isabella spend a lot more time together.  They play and talk and laugh together.  And sometimes that mean Cenzo gets left out.  He is used to orchestrating playtime and making the decisions and having Luccio go along with it.  Now that Isabella is holding Luccio's attention and able to play as an equal things are shifting.

It was most noticeable in the last couple of weeks.  The boys were home for school vacation and Cenzo commented quite a bit that he felt "left out, "lonely" and that he thinks Isabella doesn't like him.
I reminded him that sometimes he doesn't include her in playtime with Luccio so she is learning from that example. I suggested maybe he can make an effort to invite her to play and include her in conversations more.

Well, he took that to heart.  He even moved his carseat so he could sit in the 2nd row next to her instead of in the back with Luccio.  Isabella was thrilled! It was as if she has moved up a bit in the Hierarchy.  He has gone all out to try to get her affection and attention.  He tries to read to her and play games she will like.  He compliments her and tells her how pretty her outfits are and how great her hair looks.
He offers to hold her hand when walking places just like Luccio does.  And he has been offering to tuck her in at night.  Usually she tucks the boys in, so this is a funny switch.  She is loving all the extra attention and I think she realizes she has some power in this.  I have read before that sibling relationships can affect the relationships you have later in life and it is interesting to see this happening first hand.  I have a younger brother and I am sure we had similar changes over the years but I don't really remember it.

For the most part, Luccio is being a great sport about all of the changes.  At first I don't think he noticed much.  Then he started to become more aware of the fact that Cenzo moving his seat meant more talking and laughing between his siblings and now he was the one sitting alone.  But, he hasn't complained.

Luccio has had a bond with Isabella from day.  It wasn't forced and developed naturally.  So we didn't have to adjust to it.  Luccio just gave his baby sister loving attention, she gave it back.  But, with Cenzo it's more of a process and Cenzo is still figuring it out.  He wants to have Isabella love him like she loves Luccio.  He wants to be her favorite.  I try explain to him that you get love by being loving.  And that people can love more than one person at a time.  That he doesn't have to be "better than Luccio" to be loved. But, he is competitive by nature.  He thinks that there can only be One favorite.  Isabella is only 2, so she doesn't get that either. So when Cenzo tells her he loves her, she says "I love you too."  Then Luccio will say I love you too Isabella.  And she says, "no I love Cenzo."  Before she was always saying how much she loved Luccio.  So this broke his heart.  I tried to reassure him and explain that she is just learning what these words mean and that of course she still loves him no matter what.

She is often referring to Luccio as "Good Boy."  Which then leaves Cenzo sometimes being referred to as "Bad Boy." I always remind them all that there are NO bad boys or people, just sometimes people make bad choices.  Now that the tide has turned and Cenzo is working so hard for Isabella's approval it is very important to him to be "Good Boy."  And she has blessed him with the honor of being "Good Boy" a few times this week.  Cenzo cannot just accept that, he wants Luccio to then be "Bad Boy."  Cenzo had felt left out of their bond and knows that Luccio has always earned the high honor of Good Boy, so now he figures he should be Bad Boy. He will ask Isabella, "I'm Good Boy right?"  And she says, "yes, Cenno you Good Boy."  Then he says, "Luccio is Bad Boy, right?"   But, Luccio does not like that change.  I do not like that either.  Luccio never worried about that before. As long as he feels loved he never needs someone else to be loved less or not at all.   Just as a side note: She never says Luccio is Bad Boy. It infuriates Cenzo to no end.

As part of winning her love, Cenzo has been telling Isabella he is going to buy her things.  Every time she does or says something nice to him, he tells her is going to buy her a Barbie car to drive!  At first I thought he was doing that so he could somehow win the competition.  But, when I talked to him about it I realized he truly wants to buy things for her because he wants her to know he loves her.  It's crazy to me that he has learned this at a young age that you can show love with material objects. I told him it would mean more to her if he reads to her or wraps her in a blanket and takes care of her.  I pointed out that no one else in the family buys things to show love, we just try our best to be nice to one another.

He seemed to get that point and started to think of things that people have done that are loving, but don't include shopping.

I told them that they are twins. They are brothers, they are BOTH good boys.  But, it feels like I am speaking to the air sometimes because no one is listening lately.  They are trying to convince Isabella that they are the best, they are Good Boy.

I am sure things will return to normal.  We will go back to Cenzo and Luccio being best pals.  Luccio and Isabella being each others babies.  And Cenzo and Isabella being siblings that love each other.  Hopefully they will all be closer and communicate more.

 But, I will not miss these days of competing for Isabella.  I don't like the set up of one being better than the other.  And I know that Cenzo has to feel validated and triumphant in his quest to be loved by Isabella before this competition can truly end.  I just hope he can see that he can be her best friend without having to overthrow Luccio.

They have a lot to learn about love and sibling bonds and loving relationships.  This is just the beginning of a lifetime challenge.  I just pray they can all find love by supporting one another along the way.

Ah, siblings.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Metal Man

Over the weekend I had to have "the talk" with my kids. Not the birds and the bees.  More like the  one about a magic bunny, eggs, a hammer, nails, Roman Soldiers and a man named, Jesus.  THAT talk.  Quite the challenge to explain Easter from the Catholic perspective to 5 and 2 year olds.  They knew more than I thought and understood more than some adults I know.  Their unique perspectives gave me lots to think about!

This wasn't our first talk about God, Jesus and all things sacred.  I used to be a Campus Minister so it is a topic I like and believe in very much. We incorporate our beliefs into our everyday activities.  But, we had a refresher talk as we drove to our Church on the way to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.  Our church has a beautiful outdoor Grotto modeled after Lourdes. It is a peaceful place to visit and perfect to walk the Stations in the wooded area near the Grotto.  Several hundred people showed up throughout the day to walk the course.

My conversation with the kids went something like this. First, I reminded them that it was Good Friday and asked if they knew what that meant.  They said yes, they knew it was the day Jesus died.  So we were off to a good start.  I went over how Jesus lived a long, long time ago and loved God so much.  He was God's son and came down from Heaven to teach people on Earth about how much God loves us.  He was a great teacher.

Cenzo wanted to know if people thought Jesus was weird?  In a nutshell yes.  Some people thought so.

"Is that why they arrested him? Because they thought he was weird and they didn't like it?" asked Luccio

I tried to explain that sometimes it is hard to hear messages like the ones Jesus taught about.  Some people did not want to hear that their choices were not good.  And they wanted Jesus to stop trying to get them to change their lives and live better.

We went on to talk about how after he was arrested Jesus had to carry his cross a long, long way to the spot where he was going to die.

Ugh, I DO NOT like having to get around to that part.  But, the boys knew it was coming.
They had some great questions like was the Cross heavy? Did he have to walk up the hills? Did he get to eat or drink? Was he tired? What about his friend Simon the helped him?

I was surprised they remembered Simon, I guess they pay more attention to what I say than I thought, LOL!

As we drove Luccio noticed mountains in the distance and wanted to know if that was like the mountains Jesus had to walk up with his Cross.

I have to be honest I wasn't sure if Jesus walked up mountains with the cross. I remember seeing the Mel Gibson movie and I am pretty sure it was a hilly walk. So I embellished a bit and went with it.  "Yes, those are like the mountains, good connection."

When we started talking about how the soldiers used a hammer to nail Jesus to the Cross the questions got even more interesting.

Cenzo wanted to know where the nails got put and how long it took to nail them in.
Then he asked, "so when the nails went into his hands that is when he turned to metal?"

Uh, um.  I don't remember that part of that story Sweetie.  Huh??

Luccio clarified.  "Mama he means is that when they hung him on our Church?"


I clarified that he died on the cross first and then rose from the dead and THEN people remember him by making metal crosses.  But, Jesus did NOT become metal.

"So he came back to life?" asked Cenzo.  "So he is like a Super Hero?"

I tried to explain that Jesus was 100% from God so he has Divine Power.  So he is even stronger than a Super Hero.

That opened a barrage of new thoughts. "How did he get out of the cemetery?"  "Was he like a ghost or did he still have skin?"  "Why didn't they just put Jesus in jail?"

Good question.  Then I had to explain a bit about old fashion justice systems and how it wasn't just Jesus that was hanged on crosses. I put in a small bit about the other criminals that died with him that day and reminded them we would hear the words one said in a song "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Luccio wanted to know what happened to the other criminal. Another good question little Bear, not sure though.

Finally I wrapped it up by saying that God's love is stronger than death. And that we would remember Jesus and his walk with the Cross as walked through the Stations.

Cenzo commented, "it's a weird story Mama. Is it true?"

Well, in our family we believe that it is true and in our Church family of Catholics we believe it is true.  But, not all people believe it.  That is what Faith is.  Believing even when everyone else doesn't.

Isabella said, "I love Jesus."

Then Cenzo suggested maybe when he is older he will make robots that can teach about God like Jesus did.  They can say "I am a robot. I believe in God. I love God."

I wasn't sure what to make of that.  If I analyzed it from my adult perspective I would say Cenzo took away the thought that people who believe are like robots.  But, he explained it in a way that made me think he meant that this would really help get the message out to as many people as possible that God is loving. He liked the idea of his robots helping Jesus.

Luccio had one last question, he asked me "is that why the Easter Bunny brings the eggs? Because Jesus was dying?"

Oh goodness, I have no idea how that ridiculous Bunny got involved with the Holiest of days.  But, I tried to tie it in by saying that Jesus came back to life and eggs are a symbol of new life so we use them to remember the Resurrection.  And the Bunny likes eggs so he helps Jesus deliver them.

My brain was EXHAUSTED! I had to stop for a Dunkin Donuts coffee and regroup my mind before we ventured on our walk through the Stations.

The weather was perfect and we met up with my mom, aunts and cousins.  It was a wonderful way to spend Good Friday morning.  And it gave me lots to think about for my own faith reflection and for future conversations with the little ones.

At the Station where Jesus is hanging on the Cross there is a steep set of stairs to walk up to stand at the foot of a very large Cross. At that point Luccio stood waiting to see "how are we going to get into the sky to watch Jesus rise from being dead?"

He truly thought we were going to somehow be beamed up to the sky.