This is as simple as it sounds, and as tricky. When the Toddles wants to play, he plays different games - or the same games, differently. The Eldest, having long since learned that order and chaos can play together for short periods of time, tries to co-exist over the gameboard. It works, somewhat.
The boys are learning to take turns, to be independant and still together, and to need me in shifts. Wait, I'm always telling them, let me do this for your brother first. And they do, although the Toddles will often punctuate his patience by flinging toys. But nowhere does this become more stark than at naptime.
Wait, I tell the Eldest. Read a book or do a puzzle - I'm going to lie down with your brother for a bit. We both know that I will fall asleep, a habit that I've happily encouraged for the past two years. But the Eldest will wait, doing a complicated puzzle (500+ pieces), or setting up a board game, and moving my pieces for me. He's been beating me at Earthopoly all week, and I'm happy to sleep through that - I'm an amazingly poor loser.
When QG came for a first day of two, she found herself overwhelmed. The energy of the boys, together, is more than the sum of its parts, doubling and quadrupling in bursts of boyish laughter and flying objects. The next time she came, the Eldest and I went out alone, having a quiet drive to go and visit a camp that he'll attend next week. We talked on the way, coffee stopped in harmony, and planned how we'd handle a last minute request for a quick hemo/allergy training. I could show them how to use the Epi, he suggested, but I'm not sure I want to. I nodded, familiar with his discomfort with crowds and performing. Fine. You can tell me right then what you want to do. I can show them how to use the Epi if you don't want to do it. He smiled, relieved.
The camp was a small room filled with glue and paper and sand and other wonderfully active, messy things. The Eldest sat down and began filling a paper fish with tiny scales. We worked together on the scales, happy in a simple, wonderful way. Slowly, the room cleared around us, and the Eldest looked up from designing bracelets to find himself the center of attention. The counsellors and camp director smiled at him from their conference table.
let's go tell them about hemophilia and allergies, I whispered to the Eldest, and he nodded. And so I began. (The Eldest, sitting quietly next to me, slid his cap over his nose.) I explained about bleeds, and the different kinds of bleeds. (The Eldest stood on his chair.) I talked about trusting the child to know his body. (The Eldest started making silly faces.) I reviewed food allergy and anaphylaxis. (The Eldest, sensing his moment, starting waving his arms and singing, 'blah, blah, blah poop my poopface.')
From time to time, I put a hand on the Eldest, or whispered a word in his ear. Settle down, now. You are being disruptive, can you try to be a helpful presence? You can go and work with the beads some more if you'd like. The Eldest nodded, listening, and continued. Finally, I gave him a chance.
Can you show these people how to use the Epi? He grinned, enthusiastic. Yep! He held the Epi backwards. You take it like this - OOOOOOOOOOOOps - and then you do this - AWWWWWWWWWWW - and then oh, no, I stuck it in me butt. Giddy with his own wit, the Eldest sat down. I gritted my teeth. Above all, I said sighing, he's an absolutely normal child. Despite all of the medical whatevers.
A table full of women looked at the Eldest, now lounging happily in his chair. Yes, they said. We can see that.
To set things right, the Eldest tried to do a little after-the fact educating. He made a 'How Do You Feel' chart, using the Wong-Baker scale to show anxiety or pain. He made three columns to let child, teacher and parent chime in. At the bottom, he wrote, 'WHAt DO YOu WANt tO DO?' and offered options: Epi, ice, factor, call Mum, wait and see, or a hug. We'll give it to his camp counsellors, as an opportunity for him to show them that he does take this seriously, and that they can trust him. For all of his nervous clowning, he is a wise child who knows his own body - a truth that would have had more impact had he not been sticking markers up his nose when I'd said it.
But this is the process of making things right, and he's done it beautifully. I think his wisdom balances out his jokestering, but man, is it a finely measured balance.