Caleb is the little brother, the youngest, the baby.  His older brother, who isn’t very tall, nevertheless casts a long, long shadow: Liam almost always gets the top honor, the award, the prize. True, Liam’s competitive spirit would make Napoleon nervous, but–maternal boasting aside–Liam is both talented and a ridiculously hard worker.

Wait. See what happened?

I started this post about Caleb and just spent almost four sentences talking about Liam, who of course can’t help the shadow he casts; he’s just doing his thing. I do wonder what it’s like for Caleb, though, growing up in that long shadow.  How does he find his own light?

A long time ago, a nursery school teacher told me that Caleb had a Luca Brasi problem–too willing to be second banana, too willing to go along with the alpha dog, even if he “knows better”–and her comment has stuck with me.  Perhaps that’s not surprising–I mean, probably anyone would remember having her not-yet-in-kindergartener be compared to a Mafia hit man, right?

Caleb had been disappointed earlier this year when he wasn’t selected for a speaking role in the Year Four play (Liam was, of course, chosen for a role in the Year Seven play even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it); Caleb wasn’t chosen for “development squad” at soccer (promising kids from each age bracket are chosen for an extra skills/scrimmage session – Liam has been picked every term).  And while Liam sails on, frequently oblivious to his younger brother, Caleb wants only Liam’s attention and approval.  Sometimes it seems as if that long-ago teacher is right: maybe Caleb will be happiest as a wing man rather than a pilot.  Perhaps that’s a good thing: the world needs happy wing men and fewer pilot wannabes.

Or maybe Caleb is just a bit like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz,” who felt immediately braver when the Wizard gave him a medal for his courage during the battle with the Wicked Witch of the West.  The other day, the soccer coaches gave out their end-of-term awards and Caleb got “Player of the Term” from his coach:


The award is only a plexiglass triangle, but to Caleb it sparkles like crystal–if he’d buttons on his jersey, they would’ve popped with pride. Maybe this trophy will give Caleb the little confidence booster he needs so that he’s less willing to take the back seat.

Of course, the first thing he said after he showed me his award: “I can’t wait to tell Liam.”  Does that mean that he needs Liam’s approval to seal his achievement? Or is he wanting to challenge his brother’s supremacy (Liam has gotten this award three times)?

I’m not sure. But I do wonder if Luca Brasi had an older brother.