As entertaining as the back-and-forth chess matches I have had with Declan can be, pertaining to what he is and isn't going to eat, the addition of my younger brother Casey to our nightly dinner table certainly takes it up a notch.
Casey is quite a bit younger than me and has been single for the majority of his adult life. That translates into him lacking some of what I would refer to as fatherly "wisdom," which he, in turn, would refer to as "weakness."
For example, let's say Declan throws a tantrum over something, one of his usual "I am not listening to anyone, I am mad and I want everyone to know it" fits. I will typically put my effort into keeping my response and dialogue at a calm and passive level, usually extending to the 7-year-old quite a bit of flexibility as long as his comments and actions don't go too far. When they do go too far he is banished to his room for a period of time, or some similar punishment, and it is usually an effective approach. Usually.
Casey's response to the same situation would be quite different of course. Declan used to complain to me daily that he wished he had a brother to play with and with Casey he kinda got his wish. Casey doesn't see Declan as the fragile little angel I do, he sees him as an equal. When Declan goes into tantrum mode Casey is quick to let him know just how ridiculous he thinks he is being. Casey doesn't do it in the patient calm tone I would attempt to use either, his is much more mocking and critical, just as a sibling would do.
In all honesty I believe it to be a healthy mix for Declan, Casey keeps me questioning whether I am being too soft and I keep Casey from being too harsh with my little man.
It is not as if Declan is ill-equipped to handle himself during the nightly battle of wits either. Earlier this week Casey was being particularly persistent in an argument with Declan about whether he was going to try the fried chicken I had made. I attempted to distract from the conversation by throwing in a little humor utilizing a line I had heard in a movie. I flexed my right arm at Casey and gave it a slap as I told him if he didn't leave Declan alone, "we were going to take Smith and Wesson to the gun show."
Casey, who is quite a bit smaller than me, shot right back at my gesture by flexing his own arms and saying, "Oh yeah, you really wanna mess with Jack Johnson and Jim Henson?"
There was a moment of silence and then I responded, "Jim Henson created the muppets, man."
Declan laughed out loud and began waving his hands in the air, "Casey has arms like Kermit the frog!"
We shared a laugh and Declan eventually ate three pieces of fried chicken.
As we relaxed around the TV after dinner, every few minutes Declan would smile at Casey and wave his arms in the air, reminding him of the gaff and reminding me that he may be young, but he is certainly not unarmed.