I think most second born siblings; in particular, if they are the same sex, feel in the shadow of the older one at some stage during their lives. So today I write about someone who shines so bright that I hope he knows that there is no shadow big enough to ever put him in the shade.
He is a boy. My second born son. A happy, sunny, good looking child who had wild curly hair as a baby. He has always been full of life and mischief.
He was an easy baby, other than the projectile vomiting that came with his severe reflux. I can still see the looks on friend’s faces as they eagerly asked for a cuddle, their wish granted immediately but first, they were covered in a cot sheet. Just in case. He was indulged by his very attentive big brother and by the time he was a toddler he was the “boss” out of the two. He was attached to not one but three dummies. Just as well as he often threw them out of his cot at his sleeping brother in an attempt to wake him up.
He is loud. If he wanted something as a toddler he would not come and find you. He would yell at the top of his lungs from wherever he was. His voice today is still the deepest in the house.
He is kind. When his brother was sick as a little boy he would gently pat him on the head and on one occasion popped his beloved dummy into his brother’s mouth. The sentiment was not lost on his brother; everyone knew how he loved his dummies. His empathy now is still one of his greatest qualities.
He is fearless. If there was a friend in trouble at kindy or primary school he would be the first to jump in and defend them. Many a time at a local playground he would get between his favourite girl, a blonde beauty who was a little shy, and the boys pushing and shoving to get to the top of the slippery dip first. He would raise his hands or legs to “protect” her and yell at them with that deep voice. It used to make all of us Mum’s laugh that she had in him her very own bodyguard.
I also remember him as a four year old standing between his brother and a group of boys who were not being very nice. His brother is three and a half years older than him and at that time probably twice his size. In his booming voice yet again (seriously he was born with a deep voice) and exaggerated karate-like stance he said: “Get away from my brother.” It completely diffused the situation as the group of boys just could not believe the gall of this little kid. This behaviour gets him into a bit of trouble on occasion as his passion for his friends, or an underdog often leads to him getting involved in things that really are none of his business.
He is talkative. Every parent teacher interview always starts with a smile and a sigh from his teacher, “He is a lovely boy, has lots to say but he must pick his time to share it.” Yep. That is one lesson still not learned at school but it makes him a wonderful conversationalist with people of all ages. Many a dinner or party is made so much better with Matthews’s great social capabilities and his “gift of the gab.”
He is reckless. So many falls and crashes off bikes, skateboards and the like. He actually became infamous in Year 4 for riding his push bike down the school slippery dip. “No mean feat Lory, we were all a little impressed, but it is Road Safety Week!” Upon leaving primary school he said the person he would miss the most was the First Aid lady. In fairness, she said she would miss him too. He was her most regular visitor with the very best of manners but she felt the school budget could look forward to bandages and Band-Aids lasting a whole lot longer with him gone.
He is nervous. High school in particular was a big step out of his comfort zone and he only knew one person going to the same school. Big brother was there to help but for a whole term he would come home flat. Such a social creature, he was missing his own group of mates. But by term two, as predicted, he found his group and they share solid friendships today.
He is funny. Such a sharp, quick wit. He keeps his friends and family entertained. He is the only one that can make his brother cry with laughter. Like, completely lose it. It is a gift. He has total recall of movie lines and punch lines and does fantastic impersonations. Why this brilliant memory does not recall homework assignment due dates, science formulas or even what day of the week it is is beyond me.
He is frustratingly but endearingly laid-back and forgetful. Can drive you nuts that the dishwasher he is responsible for unpacking for the last seven years is constantly forgotten – but always in a surprised way. As if I am asking him for the very first time. Important school notes have been found months after the event and many a party invite given to me the day before it’s on. Once I got the 2014 school year book brought home to me at the end of 2015. To this day we do not know what happened to the 2015 one.
He has been scared. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I think it hit him the hardest in many ways. His perfect little world was rocked. His eyes would look at me suspiciously. Searching for what he thought was a lie in my well-delivered assurances that all would be ok long before we knew it would be. He avoided me for a while but fortunately before too long he relaxed and became my movie buddy. Choosing “girly” ones he would lay with me and chat and did a very good job of distracting me and keeping me entertained after my surgery.
He has been heartbroken. His Pop, my Dad, lay dying in the hospital. There were a few of us sitting around Dad’s bed as he slept. The mood was quiet and very sad until he suggested that we go around the room and share our favourite funny story about Pop. Imagine that. 15 years old and trying to lighten the situation for a room full of adults. Incredible. And then, days later, he stood at his Pop’s funeral and delivered his hand written eulogy. I get emotional just thinking about that. My heart burst with pride.
He is charming. With a flash of his green eyes and his beautiful smile, I have seen him disarm quite a few girls and he is completely oblivious to it. Just recently he and I went to collect a pizza from our local pizza shop. The girl behind the counter was staring at him so much he presumed she knew his brother and he asked her just that. (This happens quite a bit as they do look quite similar.) She said no but as she handed over the pizza she asked for his name (they knew our surname from our order.) By the time we got home she had found him on Facebook. Yep. Only three years older than him. OMG! DELETE!
He has been devastated. The loss of our dog, his dog, a few weeks ago has affected him deeply. He has removed himself from us and the family home. Anything that reminds him of his daily rituals that he had with her he needs to escape from. Like me, he can be a bit of a homebody but home is not is solace now. I have watched and worried about him a lot. The saying every boy should have a dog was written just for him I’m sure. I hope he will be able to love another one again. For now, he can’t bear to talk about it so we will leave it be.
He is assertive. These past six months he has grown up a lot, in maturity and height, and grown away a little from the big brother who he once thought knew everything. Suddenly there is more conflict as little brother stands up for himself and completely disregards his big brothers’ opinions and suggestions. It’s interesting to watch brothers compete for some kind of dominance. And sometimes it’s just outright frustrating to watch as they reduce themselves to kindergarten age with “That’s mine,” or “What would you know?” or “It’s your turn to do that.” Yes really.
He is loving. He gives hugs to die for. He rings his Nan to check up on her regularly. He writes the most wonderful heartfelt things in birthday cards for all of us. He takes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day very seriously and does everything to make sure we have a nice day. The dishwasher always gets emptied that day!
He is tolerant. When his brother comes home late after a few too many beers and professes his undying love to him, over and over and over again, with little regard for his personal space, he just grins and puts up with it.
He is loved. I have always described him as the great light of my life. He is my very own sunshine. In fact “You are my Sunshine” has always been our song.
He is about to turn 17 years old. He is a wonderful son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. He is many things to many people but to me he is everything. When he was 6 years old he once declared to a teacher “I am the most important person in my Mum’s life. She loves me too much.” She said she loved how joyfully he said this, with the deepest conviction and confidence that it was absolutely true. Along with his brother, of course, it is true. My hope, as we navigate our way through these teenage years together, is that he knows it still.
He is Matthew and I adore him.