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Wee!Chesters - W00by Like Whoa
Young Dean and Sam: Fics, Meta, Art, Vids, etc.
Monday Meta! Hero Worship 
19th-Nov-2007 07:52 pm
SadDean
I know there may be folks out there who haven't seen 3x07 yet, and I try not to make my metas dependent on knowing the latest canon, but damn. This week's episode SCREAMS for Wee!Chester meta.


Because I know you.... Because I've been following you around my entire life. I mean, I been looking up to you since I was four, Dean. Studying you, trying to be just like my big brother. So yeah, I know you. Better than anyone else in the whole world.

Thus says Sam to Dean when convincing him that he "can see right through" Dean's ninja kamikaze act.

The implications of this speech for the Wee!Chesters are huge. I've seen them run the gamut this week from "Oooh... he was FOUR before he started looking up to Dean. That must mean John was his hero before that!" to "Look! Confirmation of Sam's hero-worship!" and of course, the highly intriguing, "Well, clearly that means that Dean wasn't his primary caregiver from the get-go."

Well, of *course* Dean wasn't his primary caregiver, but that doesn't mean Dean wasn't still a HUGE part of Sam's domestic care. A five-year-old is absolutely capable of helping out with a nine-month-old...not for extended periods of time, and not without any supervision, but certainly on a regular basis. Dean could easily have changed the occasional diaper, practiced his own reading by reading to Sam, and most importantly, kept Sam company and occupied his attention while John dealt with the major stuff.

John himself indicates that the change from "father" to "drill sergeant" was a gradual one. Given his and Dean's statements to the effect that John's primary motivation when it came to the boys was one of protectiveness, it's actually more likely that John was unwilling to leave the boys alone for any length of time. I've always thought it was fairly clear that the incident portrayed in "Something Wicked" was a. rare at that age or b. the first (or nearly first) time John had left them alone for an extended period of time. For an hour? Sure. Six? Sure. Overnight? I'm not so sure. Even with Dean's speech in AHBLII, it's unclear whether they were completely alone while John was off on hunts. Again, this is one of those things that was probably a progression - from supervised to an hour or two to an evening, to a weekend, to weeks once Dean's old enough to take care of just about everything (including driving if necessary).

So why does Sam pick *four* as the age when he begins "looking up" to Dean? Well, there's a few reasons. First off, four years old is about as far back as most people can go for independent (and not planted after-the-fact) memories. Simply put, that's probably when he became conscious of his own surroundings and *remembers* looking up to Dean for support and examples of what to do.

Second, developmentally, at about four years old, kids start to consciously pick their role models. Somewhere between the toddler (2-3) and preschool (4-5) ages, kids learn to look outward instead of inward (egocentricity). Sam probably didn't go to preschool, so much...he may or may not have done, but one thing is certain, and that is that his social circle would immediately have included Dean.

Third, at four years old, Sam would have been old enough to begin not only picking his role models, but testing his own abilities. Remember that Dean was four, almost five, when he started taking on more and more responsibility. (Which also means, if you're paying attention, that Dean would have been at just this same age when John suddenly became not only his hero, but his entire world. No surprise that *he* has always looked up to Dad.) It's expected and natural for Sam to be looking outward to what he can do. He'd want to imitate. And Dean's the closest person there is - just like in a "normal" sibling relationship. By his own admission, he's always "followed" Dean - but at the age of four, he's old enough to even try to keep up. (And not coincidentally, John could expect that Sam at this age will be able to shoulder the same self-reliance as Dean at the same age.)

For the record, I don't think Sam stopped hero-worshipping John because he started hero-worshipping Dean. I think he'd always had a bit of worship for them both. I think the difference is that he reacted differently to John's expectations, believing his father disappointed in him - particularly because he is not the same person as Dean. Notice the other critically important piece of Sam's speech: "Studying you, trying to be just like my big brother." Because the hero-worship is also tied to Sam's attempt to model himself after Dean. Which, of course, is something he couldn't help but fail at, because he's NOT Dean, he's SAM.

Incidentally? Four and five years are also the ages at which kids frequently decide to model their behaviour specifically after the heroes they see around them. Peter Pan, Batman, Superman...and similar role-playing begins around this age, too.

So. We have little wee!Sammy reaching the age at which he notes his two primary caretakers as individuals (and yes, even if all Dean used to do was occupy Sam, that counts--but I think he did much more than that even as young as five/six), as well as the people who take care of *him* (outward thinking, instead of egocentric), and in seeking his *father's* approval, he determines that "being like Dean" is the way to go.

Why? Because if he's like Dean, John will like him more. John will give him autonomy (and stop treating him like a baby? or perhaps let him come to things in his own time). John will trust him. Because it's Dean's ability and maturity (relative to Sam's) that wins John's approval and affection, in Sam's estimation.

So his hero-worship of Dean growing up is really also an extension of his hero-worship of John. But he's SAM. He doesn't react to John the same way, he shares John's stubbornness and digs his heels in when challenged, leading to the "butting heads" dynamic. He isn't really interested in the car, try as he might (and does anyone else REALLY want to see fics with little Sam desperately trying to learn car maintenance and just finding it mind-numbingly boring?), and he is interested in school and seeking normal, even though he also wants to model his rebel-without-a-cause brother. And trying to be Dean just sets him up for failure, which makes him think John is disappointed.

Now, would John have loved two sons who both wanted to learn how to fix the Impala? Who both shared his salt-of-the-earth sensibility? Who both had an innate talent for sharp-shooting? My bet is that sometimes, yes. But on the other hand, he probably *also* would have loved two sons who were natural students, who had a gift for research and lore, who were socialized enough to be able to identify with the people they try to help. Mostly, though, I think it's a classic case of any parent-child relationship: sometimes he got very frustrated with both Dean and Sam, but in general he could not have been more proud of both of them.

But because Sam and John wound up butting heads, Sam interpreted John's frustration as disappointment, and thus rebelled even further. Vicious cycle. In fact, a lot of his "Dad screwed us up!" riff in S1 is an extension of that rebellion. But he's gained enough distance to realize that John loved them both desperately and in their own ways, as well as appreciate, for what it's worth, the ways in which John's methods of raising him and Dean to survive have been effective and necessary.

Next week's meta will be about car maintenance, because SQUEE.


ETA: I watched "Something Wicked" again this morning in light of the comments to this, and y'all are right: I give. By their age in the flashback, John's been leaving them regularly.

Nonetheless, the "progression" idea stands, and is backed up by canon. I just had it a little protracted from the evidence.

Since that's the case, then it's also indicated that John expressed his overprotection by keeping them on the move, together, with limited ability to reach out of the family. That also makes sense given what we're told.

The point, though, is that Sam probably hero-worshipped *both* Dean and John up until the point where he decided he wasn't ever going to live up to Dean's example, perfection, etc., and when his own personality matched with John's led them to constantly be in conflict. Even when he "rejected" John's way of life, it was out of a sense of personal failure...failing in his father's eyes (which of course, we know John never really believed).
Comments 
20th-Nov-2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Just discovered this community and have been sifting through it. Just wanted to tell you, that I've very much enjoyed all of the metas you've posted here. Keep it up! ;-)
20th-Nov-2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
Cool, thank you, and welcome to my little sand (and sometimes soap) box.

It's a nice change from the sound of crickets....
22nd-Nov-2007 12:24 am (UTC)
I've always thought it was fairly clear that the incident portrayed in "Something Wicked" was a. rare at that age or b. the first (or nearly first) time John had left them alone for an extended period of time.

Huh. I got totally the opposite impression. When John was giving Dean instructions as he was leaving, Dean was very 'yeah, yeah, I've heard this all a million times' and Sam barely noticed his dad was leaving. If John's leaving them alone was more of a rarity, I think Wee!Sammy would've had a stronger reaction.
22nd-Nov-2007 12:58 am (UTC)
I think the "I've heard this a million times" attitude of Dean's is because John's gone over it so much, which he wouldn't necessarily do if they've been through this kind of thing a lot. I do agree that John's left them frequently - but not necessarily for more than a single day/night. That also explains why Sam is so blase about John going - he doesn't necessarily realize that John's not coming back in a few hours, which was the pattern before.

Although, there is also the argument that John's being so reiterative about his instructions not because it's new, but because this time it's vitally important.

I dunno - it can be read either way, but it strikes me as something that isn't so routine that John's not anxious. I could see him having left them for several hours, possibly overnight once or twice, and under fairly controlled conditions. But the "If I'm not back by Sunday" suggests to me that he's not usually gone for long.
22nd-Nov-2007 02:15 am (UTC)
I think the "I've heard this a million times" attitude of Dean's is because John's gone over it so much, which he wouldn't necessarily do if they've been through this kind of thing a lot.

Even though a commercial pilot may take-off and land multiple times a day for decades, he still goes through the pre-flight checklist item by item. John going over the instructions with Dean again before leaving came across to me like a pre-flight check. The "If I'm not back by Sunday" struck me as the trigger for the contingency plan. John was planning to be back way before then, so if he wasn't back by Sunday, then Dean needed to call for back-up, both for him and Sam, and for John. I got the feeling they were all old hat at this.
22nd-Nov-2007 03:15 am (UTC)
I know what you're saying (I've been in patient safety and QI professionally for 7 years), and yes, it definitely has elements of the routine. But I still say that it's also typical for a parent to go over something obsessively when the child has never done something before - at least not in the context of that particular instance. Remember, too, that pilots run scenarios and train in simulation hundreds of times before they run the actual exercise - and that could also contribute to a "Yes, I know" response in a 9/10 year old.

So, while there is assuredly a checklist that John went through whenever he left - for ANY amount of time - and Dean *has* heard that before and is old hat at being left under those circumstances, I do think there's a few atypical pieces to the situation in SW. For John, clearly the difference is that he knows the shtriga is out there. But it's possible that, young as they were, it's also a matter of that incident being one of the first times John was away for, say, more than one day (or more accurately, more than one night). We don't know when "Sunday" is in relation to when John was leaving - could have been two days, could have been three. We don't know whether the shtriga attacked on the first night or the fifth--there's just not enough information. I really don't think John left them for more than a day or so at that young an age - like I said, for a single day or a single night, sure, but not for days at a stretch.

So, yes, I agree that they were used to John leaving. I disagree that he had necessarily left them for an extended time very often up to that point.

That said, now I want to watch it again to recollect my early impressions.

Edited at 2007-11-22 03:18 am (UTC)
22nd-Nov-2007 03:27 am (UTC)
Heh... I just re-read my original post and realized I've flip-flopped a little. Meep.

I'm changing my position slightly, then: yes, he leaves them, I don't know how often he's left them overnight - but as I said originally, I think the overnight situation is more rare (at this point) than the 6-8 hour stretch.

Yeah, definitely have to watch it again.
22nd-Nov-2007 04:25 am (UTC)
I hosted a Wee!chester panel at Kazcon last summer, and it was frustrating trying to pin down anything about the boys' childhood because the show doesn't give us much to work with, and what it does give us is sometimes contradictory. We need more Wee!chester moments on the show! 8-)
22nd-Nov-2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Just letting you know I did watch SW again and yeah, I overstated how long it took for them to progress to the routine of being alone...

(Though it's still potentially possible that when they talk about "dad being gone for days" they were *ordinarily* with Jim, Caleb, or Bobby, etc. - and it still counts because it's DAD who's absent. But yeah, that's stretching it.)

Oh, well, Serves me right for pushing the "controversial" viewpoint without reviewing all the Wee!chester evidence over again.
22nd-Nov-2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
The show does leave plenty of room for people to interpret Wee!chester moments through the lens of their own experience. There are fans who like John but would never dream of leaving their own 9-year-old and 5-year-old home alone overnight, so they prefer to think that John wouldn't either except under the direst of circumstance. My parents started leaving me home alone (without even an older sibling as backup) when I was 3 or 4, so I'm a lot more blasé about it.
23rd-Nov-2007 03:17 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was a latchkey kid myself from about 7-8 on and I was babysitting other kids by the age of 11.

But I was also a highly mature kid.
22nd-Nov-2007 09:02 am (UTC)
I found this link from spnnewsletter. You don't know how happy I am to read meta on wee!chesters. :) Great job. Thank you.
22nd-Nov-2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks!
22nd-Nov-2007 10:09 am (UTC)
*reads and thinks*

Hey, wouldn't it be cool if there was no such thing as pesky work, and all we had to do all day was sit around reading and writing fic and meta?

I've always thought it was fairly clear that the incident portrayed in "Something Wicked" was a. rare at that age or b. the first (or nearly first) time John had left them alone for an extended period of time

Like the person who commented previously, I've always believed the complete opposite (and wrote about the reasons why at length in my Something Wicked recap). There's a very definite air of routine about John's exit scene. "You know the drill," says John. "We've been over it a million times," says Dean. Sam doesn't even look up as John leaves, and a six-year-old being left by his lone parent for the first time would pay a lot more attention. Come to that, a ten-year-old being left overnight in charge for the first time would be a loss less blasé. They've done this before, and often. It's a routine. John goes over the same drill every time, because that's part of the routine, making sure it's drummed into Dean's head because, let's face it, a child of that age shouldn't be left like that for so long.

The fact that this was definitely not the first time they'd been left overnight was confirmed in AHBL, when Dean talks to Sam's corpse about the five-year-old Sammy always asking questions. "'Where's Dad gone?' When he'd be gone for days at a time." If Sam was five then, Dean would have been nine, and they'd have been 10/11 and 6/7 in the SW flashbacks, so this memory was at least a year, possibly two, before the Striga incident. I think the show has made it pretty clear that John leaving the boys alone for several days at a time was something that happened on a fairly regular basis from a worryingly young age. That was a lot of what his apology to Dean in IMTOD was all about.

I do agree that it would have been a progression. John had removed himself and his sons from their entire support network, and kept moving throughout their childhood - we've been told that on numerous occasions. In SW their nearest sanctioned help in case of emergency was three hours away. Moving so frequently would mean there was little or no community support to lean on - no friendships built up to call on for babysitting duties.

It completely would have started with wee Dean helping out with baby Sammy, then being left alone with him for maybe an hour while John ran errands, because there was no one else to leave them with. And then because Dean proved able to handle the responsibility, it would have escalated to regular babysitting, and from there on to overnight absences and then the 'days at a time' that Dean talked about. Yes, John was very protective of the boys, but he was also dangerously blinkered. He always believed he was doing the best he could, but that doesn't mean he was always right. A man as obsessed with protecting his sons in the way you imply above would not have left them alone overnight even once.

Obsession is a lot like addiction - it involves denial of any consequences. I think John, reluctant as he was to give up on his need to hunt, believed that the boys were safer locked in a motel room with Dean in charge than they would have been if he found a stranger to look after them in whatever town they were living in currently. Especially if that stranger then saw fit to involve Child Protection Services.

Um. I've lost my thread. *re-reads meta*

Oh yeah. I totally agree that four was simply the age at which Sam was able to pinpoint being aware enough to hero worship his brother, rather than there being any enormous shift in his worldview at that age. As for picking Dean for that hero worship, well, John was the parent, and thus a step removed. An older sibling, on the other hand, is much more immediately available as a role model, providing a standard to aim for. Especially, in this case, because John's regular absences would place Dean squarely in the role of child carer, and their frequent moves from town to town would mean that each brother was the other's most consistent companion through their childhood, all other friends being left behind.

Damn, too long. Second reply, here I come.
22nd-Nov-2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I watched the ep again today and you're completely right.

I've added an edit to the end of the original post.

The progression thing stands - I just protracted it a little more than canon.
22nd-Nov-2007 10:10 am (UTC) - second reply...
And trying to be Dean just sets him up for failure, which makes him think John is disappointed.

I also completely agree with this, and it all stems from their positions in the family, as well as their very different personalities. Have you ever seen the film Sabrina (the remake with Harrison Ford)? In it are two brothers, Linus and David. Linus, the oldest, runs the family business, in which he's been heavily involved since his youth. It's all he's ever done. David, the younger brother, started out just as enthusiastic about the business, but lost interest as he grew older and became a wastrel. The eponymous Sabrina tells Linus that she once asked David why he stopped going into the office. "What do they need me for?" he replied. "Linus is there."

I see strong parallels with the Winchester boys there. We know from Bugs that Sam believed John considered Dean to have set a standard of perfection that Sam himself could never live up to, and then SW told us why Dean worked so damn hard to be that perfect. But Sam had neither that same incentive to reach those standards, nor the opportunity, because Dean was there first.

Man, family dynamics are complicated, huh!

Oh, but you know what really kills me? It's realising that, for all Sam's resentment of John giving him a hard time over wanting to play soccer, he clearly got his own way on the issue, or he couldn't have won that trophy we saw in Bad Day! I wonder how much Dean had to do with talking John around...

Um...I should be working. Tell me if anything I've said here doesn't make sense - I'm a bit brain dead right now!
22nd-Nov-2007 08:30 pm (UTC) - Re: second reply...
LOVE "Sabrina" - both the original and the remake. (We were up to our elbows in your underwear drawer--it was like touching the shroud of Turin. Hee!)

Oh, but you know what really kills me? It's realising that, for all Sam's resentment of John giving him a hard time over wanting to play soccer, he clearly got his own way on the issue, or he couldn't have won that trophy we saw in Bad Day! I wonder how much Dean had to do with talking John around...

Yup! And that would be one of those fics I'm working on....
22nd-Nov-2007 08:50 pm (UTC) - Re: second reply...
And that would be one of those fics I'm working on....

The bunnies, they do hop, huh *G*
22nd-Nov-2007 11:59 am (UTC)
That's a lovely meta, especially in regard to the early years family dynamics.

I have to agree with llywela though when it comes to the point of John leaving his sons alone as a regular occurrance. I thought the show made an effort to picture it as business-as-usual for Sam and Dean. I may not be a huge supporter of the Supernatural comic, but even there John is leaving his sons with strangers on a regular basis directly after Mary's death and is giving Sam into Dean's care at age 5. So I really think it's a deliberate decision from the creator's side to picture John that way. ;)
22nd-Nov-2007 08:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, y'all are right. Sometimes in my desire to present an alternate POV I go a little far over. My fault for posting meta without double-checking all the Wee!Chester evidence in the show.

Leaving them with strangers or other supervision isn't the same as leaving them alone, though. And that line of Dean's "We've been over this a million times" could be read either way - as could "Dad was gone for days at a time" - yes, but even if he'd left them with Caleb or Jim, they'd still interpret that as "Dad being gone"....

Meh. It was definitely a progression, I think I just protracted how long it took them to get to the point of leaving them for days at a stretch.
23rd-Nov-2007 02:47 am (UTC)
Why? Because if he's like Dean, John will like him more. John will give him autonomy (and stop treating him like a baby? or perhaps let him come to things in his own time). John will trust him. Because it's Dean's ability and maturity (relative to Sam's) that wins John's approval and affection, in Sam's estimation.

That's a great point.
23rd-Nov-2007 03:15 am (UTC)
Thanks!

I just don't think that Sam transferred his hero worship from John to Dean - I think he'd always been a bit in awe of both of them. And like Llywela says above, the family dynamics and his position in the family pretty much dictate that he's going to look up to Dean as an example that he finds mostly unattainable.

Thanks for dropping by!
23rd-Nov-2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
his position in the family pretty much dictate that he's going to look up to Dean as an example that he finds mostly unattainable.

I wonder though at what point, if any, this began to turn. I think it's entirely likely that Sam decided to excel in the areas he did because it was something he could do better than Dean. However while I think Sam still admires Dean, there's a dose of contempt in there for him as well. I wonder if that began because there's aspects of Dean that John wasn't that approving of either, or because of things Sam didn't approve of in either of them.
23rd-Nov-2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Well, I think school had a big part to play in that. Presumably he had teachers at some point who convinced him that he could and should apply himself.

I think his contempt for Dean is a more complicated question. We have no idea how John feels about Dean's less admirable qualities - his sexual promiscuity, his casual treatment of serious topics, the defense mechanisms - but we know that Sam is by and large more serious and sensitive than Dean (or at least, Dean tamps it down further). There's also the accusation Sam throws at Dean that Dean always took John's side - so he's an extension of his issues with John.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that as Sam tried to stretch against his bonds within the family--as he entered puberty, certainly, if not before--he came to see Dean and John as the unified front against him, and that's where the resentment stemmed from. In that sense, it's tied to his desire to break with John; in other ways, it's classic sibling dynamics, particularly given the pleasure Dean derives from pushing Sam's buttons.
23rd-Nov-2007 10:04 pm (UTC)
We have no idea how John feels about Dean's less admirable qualities...he came to see Dean and John as the unified front against him, and that's where the resentment stemmed from.

That makes sense to me and is one reason I wonder if those aspects of Dean are a window into John (who we know so little about). It's hard to imagine John ever being as lighthearted as Dean sometimes is. At the same time, I wonder if Dean's defense strategies could have been learned from John, who once wanted to allay a small boy's fears for his father by lightening the tension that way.

particularly given the pleasure Dean derives from pushing Sam's buttons

True, and this is always so much fun to watch!
27th-Nov-2007 10:54 pm (UTC)
There's also the accusation Sam throws at Dean that Dean always took John's side - so he's an extension of his issues with John.

I disagree. Sam never really threw that at Dean, which he most certainly would have if it had happened. The only thing he threw at Dean was being a good little soldier and following Dad's orders. And the one direct thing Sam does say on the subject is that Dean has always been the one person he knew he could count on to be there for him, no matter what(see Salvation).

We also saw in the argument in Dead Man's Blood, which was definitely played in the "this was normal at the Winchester household", that Dean tried to keep the peace, he didn't actively choose sides. It was the one place that John would, still without real respectful acknowledgement, let Dean "order him" around and in fact both Sam and John take utterly for granted Dean's role here, he may as well be invisible, but an invisible wall of sorts. Sam may have interpreted NOT choosing Sam's side as choosing Dad's side, when he was pissed off about stuff, "If you aren't with me, you are against me" but they aren't one and the same thing.
27th-Nov-2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
Also, I think Sam saw Dean as John's golden boy for that reason, because he did what Dad said and as a result wasn't the one getting yelled at. At least not that Sam saw. On the other hand, John seems to have a sort of passive aggressive relationship with Dean. When he was angry at himself or at Sam, he could be critical of Dean. We saw this both in childhood(Something Wicked) and adulthood(Dead Man's Blood, in order to reestablish a feeling of control after his argument with Sam, he immediately with a casual cruelty, impunes Dean's ability to care for the Impala and REMINDS him that it's only Dean's because John gave it to him--this is actually rather reminiscent of something common in families where substance abuse takes place, making a child feel that what is good comes from the parent, whereas on their own, they'd screw it up).
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