“He started it!” Robbie wailed.
“I did not,” Robbie’s big brother, Will, protested. “He took my stuff without asking. I was just getting it back.”
“I don’t care who started it,” Mom said. “What I care about is who stops it. And I wish it didn’t always have to be me. You are both confined to your rooms until you can work this out peacefully. And here”—she handed each of them a piece of paper—“maybe you should write down some things you can do to avoid fights in the future.”
Glumly the boys walked down the hallway to their bedrooms. Just before Will went into his room, he waved his paper at Robbie and sneered, “I’m going to write down all the reasons I can’t stand you!”
“Oh, yeah? Well, my list will be twice as long as yours.” Robbie’s response was cut off by Will’s slamming the door.
Robbie shut his own door and plopped down on his bed. What a jerk! He thought. Just because he’s bigger than I am, he thinks he can push me around. Robbie found a pencil and wrote on his paper: Reasons I can’t stand Will. Then he skipped a few lines and wrote, “1. He’s bigger than me.”
Robbie tapped his pencil on his chin and tried hard to think of another reason. He looked around his bedroom. His eyes caught sight of the model airplane that hung from his overhead light. Will had hung that model for him because Robbie wasn’t big enough to reach the light, even if he stood on a chair. Sometimes Robbie was glad that Will was bigger. It wasn’t a bad thing.
Robbie needed to write down something else. He noticed the baseball mitt hanging on the footboard of his bed. It was Will’s old mitt. Robbie hardly ever got anything new. He usually got Will’s hand-me-down stuff, including his clothes and sports equipment. Robbie wrote, “2. I always get his old stuff.”
Of course, that wasn’t always a bad thing, either. Will usually took good care of his things, and he bought a lot of them with his own money. As a result, Robbie ended up with some pretty good stuff that he didn’t have to pay for. And Will always taught him how to use the equipment, so he got free lessons, too.
Robbie knew that he was going to have to think harder to come up with a reason why he hated Will. He noticed a candy wrapper on the floor. That gave him an idea. “3. He eats a lot of food.”
That was true. Will ate at least two bowls of cereal at breakfast, and he always seemed to have a snack in his pocket. Mom said that he was an active, growing boy, and she always made sure there was a lot of good food in the house. Of course, that wasn’t a bad thing. That meant more food for Robbie to eat, too. And Will often had some little treat in his pocket to share with Robbie.
Robbie frowned. He was never going to get his list done. Will must have dozens of things written by now.
Just then there was a knock on Robbie’s door. Through the door Will quietly said, “Are you ready to see my list, short stuff?”
Robbie sighed. I might as well get this over with, he thought. Then he got up and opened his door to let Will in. Will didn’t seem angry anymore. He almost seemed happy. He’s happy his list is so long, Robbie thought. Will walked in and sat down at the desk, his list folded carefully in his hand.
“You go first,” Will said.
Robbie sat down on the bed and picked up his list. “I could only think of three reasons,” he admitted. “And they aren’t really reasons why I can’t stand you—they’re reasons why I like you.” Robbie crumpled up the paper. “Guess it’s your turn now. How many reasons did you come up with—a million?”
Will unfolded his paper and showed it to Robbie. It was blank.
“I couldn’t think of even one reason why I can’t stand you,” Will said.
Robbie’s eyes got wide.
“Yeah, really. You’re all right, for a little brother.” Will pulled a package of pretzels from his pocket and offered some to Robbie. “So now I guess we’d better do what Mom asked and figure out how we can stop fighting so much.”
“I think we just figured it out.” Robbie popped a pretzel into his mouth. “We just have to remember how much we like each other.”
Will nodded. “I guess you’re right. OK, we’re done here. Let’s go play some ball.”
Robbie grabbed the old mitt off the bed and followed his big brother down the stairs.