The Art of Brotherhood: The Invention of Playschool

One of the things I love most about having three boys is watching them interact with each other. I pretty much just want to carry a tape recorder (or whatever it’s called nowadays) with me wherever I go, so I can document my eavesdropping for perpetuity’s sake.

We were driving in the car-van a few days ago when the topic of ‘muscles’ came up as it does from time to time. The Gort is very committed to reporting on the ‘growth’ of his biceps and will announce periodically – completely out of the blue – ‘look how big my muscles are’. While flexing an arm for the present party’s benefit. This happens most often after a meal of particularly hell-fee food, but occasionally he just flexes his arm, demanding agreement that he is in fact becoming a veritable Fabio.

And the Hen, being a fairly typical younger brother, follows suit, ‘look-a my musthles’ while flexing his little arm for added emphasis. But the other day, the conversation took a turn for the competitive as the Gort declared ‘his’ muscles bigger than his little brother’s. And the Hen, disagreeing, yelled ‘no, MY musthles are bigger.’ And so it went. And I had to laugh because this will be the soundtrack of my life for the next decade, I’m sure.

Brotherly love: a tenuous blend of idolizing and cutthroat competition.

Which is why the Hen has enrolled himself in playschool, I suppose. His big brother started Grade 1 so it seemed only fair that he, too, become involved in something significant and life-altering. Even if he had to invent it. He was telling my mom about his time at playschool the other night. She thought he meant he was attending preschool and started asking him about his school, while undoubtedly wondering why I never mentioned I’d enrolled him.

Because playschool is largely fictitious, that’s why. It’s the label he’s bestowed on any sort of activity that does not include his older brother. Like Sunday school. Or the occasional play group. And it’s his way of competing with the Gort’s grade one adventures.

Most days, when we pick up the Gort after school, I’ll ask the requisite questions about his day and he’ll offer a few pieces of information. ‘Today we made a map of neighborhoods’ he might report, and then the Hen will interrupt ‘I made a map o neighbrhds (unintelligible) at playschool.’ The Gort will continue, uninterested in his little brother’s untruths, ‘we did pluses in math’ and the Hen will insist ‘I did pluses’n’math at playschool‘.

The same thing happens at the dinner table, too. If the professor happens to be present, he’ll ask the Gort about his day. Our oldest will share a couple of snippets about something that happened at school. And then it’s the Hen’s turn to report on his day. And he’ll describe a host of (imaginary) activities that inevitably cause the professor to look at me quizzically (did you really do all of that) while I shake my head ‘no’. Imperceptibly.

I don’t want to rain on his pretend-parade.

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