Is poo flammable?
That was the question my 6 year old son, Dylan, suddenly fired at me the other day. And one I spectacularly failed to answer without the help of a good friend called Google. It is, by the way – worth knowing if your BBQ won’t light over the next few months.
Having congratulated myself on dissuading Dylan from conducting a live test, what I wasn’t prepared for was the onslaught of competitiveness this revelation would uncork. My poo’s more flammable than yours, Nathan! Dylan was quick to point out to his younger brother. Furious at this slur, Nathan responded with a bellowed No, it isn’t! and a breadstick jammed roughly into Dylan’s ear.
As for why either of them gave a shit (boom boom), I have no idea. Is having to struggle with the matches for a few less seconds when trying to ignite the cable you just laid really something to brag and/or get angry about?!
Yet, while the subject matter on this occasion was a little leftfield, the argument itself is increasingly typical. As the boys get older, the nearly three year gap between them seems to be closing all the time. And that’s bringing lots of benefits, especially when it comes to playing together and agreeing upon what to watch on the TV.
But the other side-effect is a rapidly intensifying sense of competition with each other. On EVERYTHING. My biscuit’s bigger than yours! No, mine’s bigger than yours! Isn’t it, daddy? (Whisper) Yes, Nath, that’s right. (Turn to Dylan, whisper). Yours is biggest really, Dylan.
I was better at football than you are when I was 3. My Chelsea dinner mat is better than your Ninjago one. You’re cheating. I’m taller. I’m better behaved. My sweetie lasted longer. That joke wasn’t as funny as mine. I want the big half. My cuddly is more precious than yours. The oneupmanship never stops.
And if you ever dare give one of them a compliment or praise for something, you can set your watch by the indignant and inevitable And me! from the other.
It’s kind of irritating but also kind of entertaining.
On the one hand, the incessant bickering and battle to outdo each other can be exhausting, especially as it invariably escalates to a point where either I or my wife, Laura, has to intervene and discreetly lie to both boys that they somehow came out on top or remind them there are no prizes on offer for who can stuff their finger furthest up their nose anyway.
But I also get it. As one of two brothers myself, I know there’s simply nothing better than beating your sibling – a feeling that seems to be supercharged when you’re both the same gender. In fact, I still cherish the day my brother handed over £1,000 of Monopoly money to me while crying like a newborn. Happy times – although probably not for my mum who had to deal with the aftermath!
More importantly, competing with my brother certainly helped (helps) spur me on to be better at stuff, which can only be a good thing. Besides, just like me and him, I know it’s all part of growing up and that Dylan and Nathan have got each other’s backs when it really matters.
So, I guess despite the antagonism it sometimes causes, what I’m saying is: long live the sibling rivalry. Providing, of course, it’s done in the right spirit and just as long as we never find out whose poo really is the most flammable.