“It just isn’t fair!” I shouted to my parents. It was 1982, and we were living in Cairo, Egypt due to my father’s job. Peter, my older brother by 15 months, had just been invited to go with our school’s “Jazz Rock” band to Athens, Greece to play for a local school there. Although we both played trombone, he was by far the better player. “Meg, he’s older than you are,” my mom responded matter-of-factly. “When you get bigger you will be able to do that too.” It was true. Only the eighth and ninth graders were eligible, regardless of talent. Still in the 7th grade, I moped around the house as he left, wishing that I was sitting on the plane with him and the rest of the band. It’s been thirty years since then. My relationships with Peter and with my younger brother, Ted, are so close that I easily forget about those adolescent jealousies.
This past weekend the Scholastic Storyworks article, “The Awesome Powers of Ethan Z” written by Lauren Tarshis (and an accompanying video) were published in print and on the Web. Although our son Ethan had seen an earlier draft of the article and initial version of the video, I brought him into my office at home to see the final product. We were both pretty excited, and all of a sudden it occurred to me that Charlie and Savanna might like to see the completed materials as well.
As I proudly played the video to my three children, I focused mostly on Ethan’s reaction. While he seemed a bit embarrassed by all the attention, he also appeared pleased that the product turned out well. There he was on video and in print offering constructive advice for dealing with how others viewed him and his difference. With Charlie and Savanna sitting on my lap and Ethan beside us, I then began to read the article aloud. About half way through the material, Charlie turned to me and said, “You know mom, kids at school are pointing at my fingers, too.” Since Charlie entered first grade at a new school this month, it was the first I had heard from him about the subject. Given he’d be exposed to many new kids in a new environment, I knew these moments were coming. I turned to him cautiously. “Charlie, you hadn’t mentioned anything to me before. What happened? Are you alright?” I began to brace myself, unsure of what would come. Would he break down and cry? Would he feel confused? Hurt? Angry? Charlie hopped off my lap and looked at me directly. “Mom, it’s not fair. How come I can’t get my own video like Ethan?”
A rare occurrence for me, I was speechless, and of course also amused. Not knowing exactly how to respond, I channeled my own mother. “Charlie, he’s older than you are,” I responded matter-of-factly. “When you get bigger you will be able to do that too.”