The funny thing about brothers is they can be so alike yet so different at the same time. Sometimes I look back at old videos of Jacob from when he was one or two years old and I can see and hear so much of Bennett in him. From the laugh to the facial expressions to the voice. Other times though, in the course of our daily life, they both do things that I know the other would never do in a million years.

For example, I can set a plate of unfamiliar foods down in front of Bennett and he will plow through them without a moment’s hesitation. If, however, I set the same plate down in front of Jacob, he will turn up his nose faster than Gwyneth Paltrow when offered food made from non-organic ingredients.

I believe that most of their differences derive from an underlying difference in their comfort levels with risk. Of course, some of this difference might be attributable to age; 4-year-olds are likely more risk averse as a group than 2-year-olds. However, to some degree it must be innate.

The other day, we were heading out to the park. We had just completed stage one of the preparation process: supply bag was packed and loaded into the car, shoes and socks were on, and garage door had been opened in the required manner that involves a substantial amount of imaginary pushing by Jacob and Bennett. As we progressed into stage two—getting into seats and buckling seat belts—we started to encounter substantial delays. This is not unusual. Our lives are basically one big delay. This time, though, the delays could almost be measured in eons rather than minutes. The boys climbed into the car and then proceeded to climb over the backseat into the trunk area of the SUV where a small collection of assorted toys, plastic shipping material, pieces of cardboard, an umbrella, cracker crumbs, and a few small rodents have taken up more or less permanent residence.

This happens occasionally and the outcome is always terrible. So I went ahead and left the doors to the car open and went back inside to brew some coffee and get to work on some cross-stitching projects I’d been putting off. I knew I had plenty of time.

A little while later, after I took a loaf of banana bread out of the oven and left it to cool by the window, I was ready to get moving to the park. Since the boys were still highly resistant to completion of stage two, I upped the ante by starting the car and backing it out of the garage with them still in the trunk area. This is where the difference in risk aversion was on full display. The car moved maybe ten feet.

“Wait! Wait!” Jacob yelled. “I’m not buckled!” When we stopped, he scampered over into his car seat.


“Go ride! Go ride!” Bennett pronounced with uninhibited glee. Needless to say, at this point, I had to forcibly wrangle him into his seat. He had experienced a taste of living on the wild side, and he was hooked!

In the end, we made it to the park without further incident. And in the process we affirmed some important lessons. While two brothers might sound alike or act alike in many ways, it is, at best, only safe to leave one of them alone with loose power tools or rickety ladders. This parenting game teaches you something new every day.