We had a fairly nice dinner with my family on Easter Sunday. The kids were relatively well behaved (some irritable periods with Nathan and Alex seemed tired after a marathon day of riding OC Transpo). We managed to get out at a reasonable time and were pulling into the driveway just in time to give them a few minutes of play before bedtime.
All in all, I was ready to call it a good day.
As Dave and I picked up the bags of toys and leftover food, we began to walk to where the boys were waiting quietly and patiently on the front porch.
Then Alex reached over and straight-armed Nathan right into the brickwork.
There was no provocation. Nathan wasn't being a pest. Alex didn't have a demand. (The two usual triggers to his aggression.) Alex didn't even seem upset. It just happened.
I immediately confiscated his toy from Easter and told him he'd be going right to bed. Nathan had a scraped up arm and some scratches on his face. He was crying, the simple desperate cry of a little boy who doesn't understand what happened.
Dave put Alex to bed and I tried to comfort Nathan. But I'm at a loss to figure out how to protect him. This just keeps happening. Not on a daily basis (thank the gods!) but even once a month is too often. And it's happening more than once a month.
We've begun working with a behavioural specialist on Alex's compliance. Hopefully once he's less upset at being asked to do things, the aggression will go down.
But meanwhile, what do I tell Nathan? It's already shaped who he is. He spent the critical first three years in an environment where someone in his family hit him. It may have been a brother instead of a parent but it doesn't change the outcome. His home simply wasn't safe and it's left him with a lifelong sentence of anxiety.
Should I tell him just to avoid his brother at all costs, sacrificing all hope of a relationship in the future? Should I make him more afraid by telling him he should never be more than two feet away from an adult? I've had suggestions to teach him to hit back but that has other long term problems and would likely only escalate the situation.
I know of families who have had to make the difficult decision to sacrifice one of their children to protect the others, sending a child with special needs away so that the rest of the family can be safe. Sometimes the child is turned over to residential programs, sometimes to a relative, sometimes the parents split up in order to separate the households.
I can understand the difficult choice but the thought repulses me. Maybe it's arrogance, but I believe I'm the best person to guide both of them into a better place, which means I need to stay present in their daily lives. Which makes Nathan being a victim of his brother's aggression inevitable.