My husband took this picture in Disneyland 6 months ago. (I realize that not everyone will get the “Tommy Boy” reference in the title of this post, but whenever I look at this picture, that’s the phrase that enters my head.) I’ll get back to that photo in a minute.
Keegan has been hugging or touching or putting his face as close as possible to his little brother since the day he was born. (I’m really, REALLY not exaggerating.) The following picture illustrates it and makes me giggle every time I look at it:
I had been trying to take some pictures of Easton while home on maternity leave one day. Keegan LITERALLY could not take one step away from him for 30 seconds. ALWAYS in his face. ALWAYS trying to hold his hand or touch him. ALWAYS hugging. (There is a comical number of pictures of Easton that also include Keegan’s hand, gently placed on Easton’s head, shoulder, arm, hand, or foot.)
Okay, back to the top photo. It’s a very unique, rare snapshot of my boys. It’s the only picture we have of the two of them hugging. Easton is actually reciprocating! (Granted, he doesn’t necessarily look stress-free about it, but still…HE’S HUGGING BACK.) He didn’t push Keegan away, walk away, or yell at him. And we got PROOF! (It doesn’t happen a lot, so the proof is important.) Keegan was THRILLED. He said, “Easton hugged me! Because he loves me now?”
His question stunned me.
But I knew why he asked. Keegan shows his love (or even just his LIKE…or…let’s be honest, even his lukewarm feelings) for someone by HUGGING them. He is so affectionate that it has actually gotten him into quite a bit of trouble at school. His teachers and I have had to remind him on several occasions, “Keegan, not everyone loves to be hugged.” His response was usually, “But I LIKE them!” Yes. I know, Keegan.
So…in HIS mind, his own brother not wanting to hug him must have meant one thing to him: his brother didn’t love him.
I have had this discussion with Keegan a few times over the last few months: “Keegan, your brother DOES love you. But, most of the time, he doesn’t want you to hug him, touch him, get in his face, or hold his hand. He really doesn’t like MOST people to do those things. It stresses him out. When he wants to hug you, I promise you, he WILL. You just have to be patient. It’s just part of who he is.”
When Easton was born, I remember being so excited for Keegan. I specifically remember saying to my husband, “They’re going to be such good buddies!” I couldn’t wait to watch them form that brotherly bond. (Because, let’s be honest, folks. NO ONE says, “Our boys will be such good buddies! Unless, of course, one of them has autism and doesn’t understand how to be buddies!”)
This photo was an attempt at one of those oh-so-cute “brothers sitting on the step together” photos. (It would be an understatement to say that trying to pose Easton for a picture is a challenge. The majority of the great photos we have of Easton were candid, un-posed, not forced scenarios.) You can see how well that worked out. Keegan tried to sit nicely and hold his brother’s hand, and well…Easton took off.
Keegan still tries to hug his brother…A LOT. I watch, and I hope Easton will hug him back. 99% of the time, he doesn’t.
But, Keegan is starting to understand that his brother will always be his brother, no matter what. He has started to realize he doesn’t need to force the hug or the hand-holding. And Easton is just beginning to initiate playing and laughing with his big brother. (I almost get emotional sometimes when I see this, because I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen.) And, if there is one thing my boys have in common, it’s their LAUGH. They sound EXACTLY the same when they’re laughing, to the point that if I’m in another room, I can’t even tell one from the other. And it’s one of the best noises I can imagine.
Keegan is protective, he is patient, and he is filled with admiration, acceptance, and unconditional love for his brother. He will always try to guide him in the right direction, and will continue to try to hug him. Also…he will annoy the crap out of him on purpose…because that’s what brothers do.