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In A Household Of 6 Brothers, Wrestling Decides What's Right

JON SCIESZKA: I grew up in a household of six kids - not such a big deal in 1960s Flint, Michigan.


That's award-winning children's book author Jon Scieszka. Six kids was a big deal to at least one person - his mother - because all six were boys.

SCIESZKA: So in our house, a lot of things got broken - couches, cars, collarbones. My mom had this rule about no wrestling, especially in the living room. But what are you going to do if your older brother Jim jumps on your back in the living room? Exactly. Flip him over your head, onto the couch, maybe into a window. When I was growing up, I thought everyone wrestled to settle every question, like who gets the last pizza? Wrestle. Who gets to sit in the front seat of the car? Wrestle. Who is the better, smarter, stronger? Definitely wrestle.

So in this hierarchy of six boys, we wrestled and got wrestled. We teased and got teased. We pranked and got pranked. You took a punch or two from the guy older than you, then you tried out that punch or noogie or sleeper hold on the guys younger than you. That's how we played, which is why, as the two oldest brothers, Jim and I figured it was perfectly fine to rope Tom in bed with our dad's ties. Also, why it was very generous of us to give Brian and Jeff a 10-second running head start before we tried to shoot them with our new BB gun. And why it was absolutely fine to, you know, cross swords while we were all going to the bathroom at the same time and accidentally peeing on Gregg and some of the smaller guys, who were a bit shorter and had to stand a lot closer to the toilet.

What I learned about being one of six brothers was the value of decisive action. Even if that action was dropping Jeff down the laundry chute because he was being so annoying. To earn respect, you followed through on your word. Doesn't matter what you say. It matters what you do.

Today, now that all of us Scieszka brothers have matured into the wisdom of that certain age, we settle our differences and disagreements in exactly the same way. At the most recent Scieszka brother golf outing, Gregg cracked a rib and demolished a coffee table when we deflected his full extension couch dive attack. And we gave Brian and Jeff a 10-second running head start before we started driving golf balls at them down the hotel hallway.

One of my favorite guy friends put it best and bluntly about brothers and friends. His ultimate question - would you take a punch for him? I judge a guy by how he plays. I'm friends with only those guys who can wrestle and be wrestled. Those guys who are like brothers. Those guys who would take a punch for me, instantly and unquestioningly, just like I would take a punch for them.

CORNISH: Jon Scieszka is a children's book author and webmaster of the site Guys Read. He was talking about growing up in a house chock-full of Y chromosomes. You can follow our series on men at Facebook and on Twitter. Remember, the hashtag is MenPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jon Scieska
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