My brother and I never didn’t bicker.

Today is my little brother’s birthday. Jeff is 35. Woohoo!

Here’s what I need for you to know about Jeff:

Jeff pooped his pants a lot when he was younger.

Like, Jeff pooped his pants ’til he was 17. Or maybe just ’til he was 6. It’s hard to say for sure; time was all wonky when I was a kid.

My mom told me not to make fun of my brother for pooping his pants. She also told me to be nice to him and to share my stuff with him and to include him in games with my friends, so she was pretty much irrational all the way around.

My mom said Jeff’s pants pooping problem was caused by food allergies which made his poops impacted or loose or loosely impacted so it just fell out of his po-po and that it wasn’t his fault.

(It’s important to note here that “po-po” is what we called butts in my house growing up because only people with poor manners said the word butt.)

(Also, I still have an almost irresistible urge to apologize to my mother and to Jesus when I say butt even though I’m a grown-up.)

(Sorry, Mom and Jesus.)

Anyway.

When my brother was young and had that poop-popping-out-of-the-po-po problem, my mom fed him buckets of Metamucil and giant vitamins from a plastic, seven-day vitamin dispenser, and she said I should have compassion for Jeff. I thought Jeff should stop pooping his pants all the time. We lived with that impasse for years.

In addition to the poop, there was the pee. (Isn’t that always the way?)

From 1977 until Forever, Jeff had a queen-sized dark green blankie made out of slippery nylon fabric. All of its cotton batting came loose in 1977-½ and gathered in one spectacular, fused lump in the corner, so the blanket was just two pieces of slick nylon with a nice, hard sphere which was especially good for whacking irritating big sisters. Jeff’s blankie smelled of rancid urine. I know the smell existed ’round-the-clock because I regularly snuck into his room after bedtime to ask him to forgive me for being so rotten to him all the time. I knelt by his bed night after night, smelling the pee as penance while I told Sleeping Jeff that I was sorry.

It was a complicated relationship.

There was poo. There was pee. There was crying. And there was fighting.

Oh my word, the FIGHTING.

Jeff and I bickered all growing up. All. Growing. Up.

In other words, Jeff and I never didn’t bicker.

The other mommies and daddies in our friend group used us as the penultimate example of How Not To Behave. When the other kids got bickery, their folks whispered in their ears that they were acting like Beth and Jeff. “You’re acting just like Beth and Jeff!” they said. And the kids’ eyes went round with horror and they shaped right up.

True story.

When my dad speaks of Jeff’s and my childhood, he uses the word despair.

Heh heh.

My mom told Jeff and me that someday we’d be best friends. “Someday,” she said, “you’ll be best friends.” It was like Chinese water torture. I think she said it half to brainwash us into believing it was true and half because my mom is an unreasonable optimist when it comes to her children.

In conclusion, never underestimate a mom with mad brainwashing skillz and unreasonable optimism.

Happy Birthday, Jeff!

I love you love you love you.

Also,
CONGRATULATIONS
on not pooping your pants or smelling like rancid urine anymore.

You rock.

……….

P.S. Jeff and I continue to speak Mockery as our primary Love Language. Jeff’s gorgeous and kind wife, Kim, has only a sister and no brothers and despairs of ever understanding this brother/sister dynamic. Jeff and Kim are raising a girl and two boys. If you can help assuage Kim’s bro/sis confusion with your own sibling stories, do share.

………

P.P.S. This chat just happened:

Me: Dude.
Jeff: What’s up?
Me: It’s June 25th. Today’s the day Michael Jackson died.
Jeff: I know.
Me: IT’S ALREADY BEEN 3 YEARS!
Jeff: We should have a moment of silence for MJ.
Me: His musical legacy is really important.
Jeff: Seems like just yesterday.
Me: I had posters. And Billy Jean Is Not My Lover is SO TRUE.
Jeff: Not black, not white? A message for this, and really, every generation.
Me: YES.
Me: Also, it’s your birthday.
Me: So I’ve written some reminiscences of our childhood. The blog post starts, “Jeff pooped his pants a lot when he was younger.” K? K. Glad we had this talk. Love you. Bye.
Jeff: WAIT! It’s also the birthday of Ricky Gervais.
Me: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ricky!
Jeff: Love you, too.

And that is what I’m talkin’ about, folks.

……….

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
21 comments
  1. I’m coming to this post late, directed from the “original pant pooping hipster” post. I’d just like to tell you that it isn’t just people with brothers who grew up fighting. I have only a sister, 2 years and 4 months younger, and I don’t remember a time we didn’t fight. And not just girly sniping and name-calling either (although I’ve heard that’s actually psychologically more damaging than physical fighting sometimes) but full-on punching, slapping, biting, you name it. I have a faint scar on my left cheek from the time my sister clawed at me in the car. I still remember her screaming “I only meant to slap her face” at my parents afterwards. The only time we stopped was when one of us was in trouble (often for inflicting pain on the other) when we became the Indivisible team who would support each other to the death. It reduced my mother to tears of confusion.
    Glad you and Jeff are friends now. My sister and I are too, although it took for us each to get our own home, AND my dad and stepmum to move out of our childhood home before the arguments stopped altogether.
    Amazingly, my own two daughters are almost always lovely to one another. I don’t get it – it must be their father’s genes.

    1. “I only meant to slap her face.” Bahaha. LOVE. And I may have said/heard this kind of thing a time or two. Thanks for the sister solidarity, Helen! xo

  2. Hilarious! I have 2 older brothers and no sisters. I have a son and daughter, so I GET THEM, as irritating as ALL the fighting is… And now I’m pregnant with #3. I am more than a little terrified to find out if there will be a 2-brother-1 sister combination or 1 brother-2 sisters, because I do not get sisters!! I’m sure if it comes to that, I’ll find answers somehow, lol, but it does scare me.

    Also, June 25 is MY birthday too and George Orwell’s. As well as Carly Simon, who I’m actually not named after, despite my name, haha. And the Classical World Chess Champion for 2000 through 2006. Okay that one I just threw in, because I decided to double checked to make sure I actually had George Orwell right, and in doing so found a list of other people with that birthday, and it sounded funny. 😉

  3. LOL Beth – we HAD TO know about Jeff’s pooping. So thanks for sharing. I wish I could help Illuminate your sister-in-law, I so would! But – I adored my little bro, almost 11 year my junior. I remember the stirring I felt inside when mom brought him home from the hospital, my maternal instinct awakened never to go back to sleep again. I remember thinking that I could hurt anyone threatening to hurt that little baby. Now, mu sister, born only two years after me, is a different story. Soon after bringing my sister home from the hospital, my mom was confronted by my query/ suggestion of whether we couls throw the baby in the garbage. Together with all the crying and cloth diapwrs evwrywhere…

    1. Love this, Yelena… the tenderness of your love for your baby brother and the angst of the sister. Fabulous Both/And!

  4. I’ve always wished I had a brother, but after reading your post with all of the comments (especially the one where the brother sat on her head and passed wind) perhaps God has spared me….

    Incidentally, we used the word po-po as well. Even though we went to church, my family was more concerned with appearing to be holy than actually BEING holy. So dirty words were never allowed. My mother died when I was 16, but I’m sure she knows I have used the naughty words while raising my own (now adult) girls. They are fine, even having been raised by a potty mouth.

    Thanks for a funny post. It was enjoyed.

    Oh and by the way, Happy Birthday Jeff (and Ricky).

    1. WHAT? A fellow po-po family?? Welcome to my world! 🙂

      And this? “They are fine, even having been raised by a potty mouth.” I will show this to my children who are forever trying to reform me.

      xo,
      B

      1. Your kids too? My older kids try to reform me too but it’s just too deliciously rebellious. 😉

  5. My brother and I, being almost 9 years apart, really didn’t bicker. He was the mascot at all of my teenage slumber parties and my friends all thought he was “Soooooooooo Cute!” The most telling comment he’s made about our brief shared childhoods (he was starting 3rd grade when I left for college) is “it was like having two moms.” The poor, poor dear.

    1. This is EXACTLY the same as when Abby’s teenage school friends come over. Cai and Cael (8 years younger) are revered. Definitely a win/win. Except not for Abby who finds all of the mutual adoration irritating. 😀

  6. Oh, so true, ‘butt’ was totally off-limits for us growing up, as was ‘poop’ and ‘pee’. No, instead we had to say ‘bottom’ or ‘rear-end’ and ‘bowel-movement’ and ‘urine’. No joke. According to my mom (who now regularly uses all of those words) they were “baby” words and mature people didn’t use them. Sigh. Oh, and my sister and I never didn’t bicker either but we’re both girls. Now that I have kids I wonder how my mom didn’t just stick her head in the oven some days. Or stick us in the oven.

    1. “Now that I have kids I wonder how my mom didn’t just stick her head in the oven some days. Or stick us in the oven.”

      HA!

  7. Happy birthday, Jeff!

    My brother used to rugby tackle me, sit on my head and pass wind when we were young. In return, I used to make him pass sanitary napkins through a crack in the bathroom door when I was caught short. We were very useful to each other. I love him dearly.

    BUTT! 😀

    1. You had me at sanitary napkins, Fi.

  8. There may or may not have been an incident when I was 8 and buried my brother up to his neck in the snow and then went into the house to read a book . . .

    I get along better with him now than I do with my sisters. He is a guy, his expectations are different. I send him a birthday card, call him every now and then and we are good. My sisters are eternally frustrated that I am not carbon copies of one of them so our contact is thankfully sparse.

    1. Regarding that snow incident (which reminds me a little of the time I slipped ACCIDENTALLY and knocked my brother’s head VERY GENTLY into the concrete patio which was COINCIDENTALLY at the same time he was being a total JERK), I’m certain your brother had it coming.

  9. I got nothing. I’m an only child.

    My wife and I have two daughters so far. I’m sure I’ll be horrified at all the fighting when they get older.

    1. I longed to be an only child, but my parents said that it was a done deal once they brought him home from the hospital.

  10. “Jeff had a queen-sized dark green blankie made out of slippery nylon fabric.” That was, Young Lady, a camouflage green United States Marine Corps issue poncho liner. And the “cotton batting” was polyester fill (for rapid drying in damp climates). The perfect blankie for a little boy who worked hard on potty training while hiding from his sister. And the word “despair” has never crossed my lips (although I’ll confess to giving consideration to calling in an airstrike on my own position).

    1. “…although I’ll confess to giving consideration to calling in an airstrike on my own position.”

      I could see the despair in your eyes. 😉

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