We were lingering at the breakfast table last Sunday morning when he said, “You know, I’m worried about Pea’s texting. Let’s check her phone, and if she has a boyfriend, we should drive to his house to talk to him.”
That precaution may seem a bit extreme for a pre-pubescent girl, but then again, it was her teenage brother – not her father – talking.
By all accounts, Pea is not yet texting with boys, and she isn’t chasing them around the playground, either. But Heaven help her when the hormones kick in, because her big brothers are watching. Very closely.
A few weeks back, Pea attended her first middle-school dance. She and her closest friends are on the reserved side, so didn’t flock to any of the Friday-night dances last fall. With the start of a new year, though, they decided to hit one together, and that threw them into a tailspin. Them being my three sons, of course.
“Do you think she’ll dance with boys?” # 1 son asked.
“I want to see her before she goes,” said #2. When told that she was getting ready at a friend’s house, #2 replied, “Okay then, she needs to send a photo of herself before she leaves. I want to check what she’s wearing.”
Number 3 son suggested to his ninth-grade buddies, who were re-fueling on pizza at our house, “Hey, let’s go up to the dance and offer to chaperone.”
Poor girl. And, poor any-boy-who-ever-dares-to-ask-her-out.
After the dance, my three sons all–separately, from wherever they were hanging that night—contacted Pea for the low-down. They were relieved to hear that she hadn’t slow-danced or otherwise tangled with any male classmates.
Having big brothers may have helped delay boy-craziness for Pea. She has witnessed the gritty underbelly of boys’ lives; sitting in the back of a mini-van as we picked up dirty, sweaty, stinky boys from sports practices, hearing the goofy way adolescent boys talk when they get together and witnessing the rumple-haired, bare-chested, boxer-clad look of her siblings every morning. No wonder she prefers crushing on squeaky clean pop-stars such as Justin Bieber.
However, the bros are definitely bracing for the inevitable, and they know all too well what she should watch out for.
After all, they are young men themselves.
I suspect Pea will appreciate her brothers’ watchful eyes as she grows older. I, too, was blessed with three big brothers, and my heart still melts whenever I think of them.
My own Brother #3 is just two years older than me, and it seems he was always nearby for support. When it came time to select a college, #3 and his best friend convinced me to attend their university. I think they had an ulterior motive — meeting and dating my friends — but (for the most part) the opposite worked well for me, too.
At college, I felt secure that #3 was watching over me. Early in my freshman year, at a party in #3’s frat house, an upper-classman invited me to his room, ostensibly to hear an ELO song played backwards (akin to the Beatles’ famed track that states “Turn me on, dead man” when played in reverse). Within minutes of settling into this guy’s room, my brother opened the door to join us. I now realize how totally naïve I was, and I am grateful that big brother was watching.
Brother #2 was responsible for me when I was very young, as with six kids, my parents decided to go with zone defense. I always knew that kind-hearted #2 would help me with anything I needed. He taught me now to butter my toast and pour my Frosted Flakes, and later, drive a car and ride on a motorcycle. When I was a technology reporter in New York, I often called him for explanations; he’s a computer genius with the skill and patience to inform others. Now, my own #3 son often communicates with him (via Facebook, of course) in matters regarding computer and cars.
Brother #1, the alpha male, took me on the El train to the Museum of Science and Industry, drove me and some friends to our first rock concert (remember America and “A Horse With No Name”?), club-hopped with me during his visits to NYC and twice joined me on European jaunts. His intelligence and acerbic wit made traveling fun and educational, and once, in a mountain-top Italian disco, I was especially grateful for his watchful eye.
After our father died, #1 became more than just a big brother; he became the family’s patriarch. I made sure that he, and my other siblings, approved of Rich when we were dating. And then, when my wedding day approached, I asked Brother #1 to walk me down the aisle. When I look at the photos today, I note how seriously he took the responsibility of “giving me away.”
I especially treasure those wedding photos and memories, now that my brother #1 is no longer alive. I can only hope that Pea appreciates her watchful—and perhaps a bit annoying–big brothers as much as I did, for as long as they can peer over her shoulder.
—Linda Williams Rorem, 30 Jan. 2012