We were on our way to a movie last night for a family date, and five-year-old N was in the backseat giving his little brother a brief history of the earth.
“Long , long ago, the earth was all on fire – a ball of fiery rock out in space!”
“Oh, no!” said two-year-old K.
“Don’t worry; there were no people on it yet. Then when the earth cooled all down, there were dinosaurs,” N continued. K was riveted.
“Then, after the dinosaurs had been there a very long time, a HUMONGOUS meteorite hit the earth, and it killed all the plants. Then the herbivore plant-eating dinosaurs like triceratops died because they didn’t have any food. So then, the carnivore meat-eater dinosaurs like tyrannosaurus rex died too since they didn’t have any food left once all their plant-eater prey had died!”
K was the perfect active listener, nodding his head, shouting “Wow!” excitedly at all the appropriate times. He even asked what bones were when N went on to tell him that we can still find dinosaur bones today, and then told me and his dad about the bones in his arms while N proudly exclaimed, “I taught him that!”
If there’s one thing N excels at more than others, it’s retaining interesting information and passing it on in the form of long, narrative stories with
endless unnecessary many great details. We laugh sometimes about his abundance of narrative skills, but when he’s using them to quietly, kindly teach his little brother things, I listen in awe.
In N’s lessons about science or books or even building Legos, I see reflected the way my husband and I have taught N these things. He’s a natural inquisitor, and he absorbs the information we give him like a little fact-seeking sponge. And with his brother, he takes on the patient, encouraging role of teacher. He praises K when K answers a question or volunteers some correct information. He listens quietly while K fishes around for a sentence to say, and he uses language that K can understand, which tells me he’s considerate enough in the interaction to change his language to meet his brother’s.
And N learns from K how to be a good big brother, a good friend, and a good listener in turn. Really, it’s perfection all around.