More Than Just Sibling Rivalry

In my last post I wrote of an example of the lack of my own privacy as a teen. But that stage was set long before that. It can be asked “Why would a small child, prior to the age of 12 really need privacy?” But privacy isn’t just a matter of someone knocking before opening a bedroom door.

My brother and sister started young, taking the liberty entering my bedroom whenever I wasn’t home.

My Brother

When he was a bit older,  (this started when he was 10 and I was 13) my brother would use my stereo.This would piss me off when I’d come home and find him in there. So I’d run up, go in my room and say in a short and curt voice, “Get out.” Sometimes I’d say, “Get out faggot.”
He’d stop what he was doing, gather up all his belongs and quietly leave. I’d just shut the door behind him with no remorse for what I’d just said or how I just treated him.

Makes me want a redo. I feel sad for both of those kids. (My brother and me).
I’m angry at my parents who set us up in certain ways to act like this and even for me to treat him like this. I believed it was normal to be nasty to your brother, even call him names. But now, I know better. I’m angry and sad that my parents didn’t teach us about boundaries and how to respect each other and each others belongings and privacy while we were growing up.

I’m ashamed of my behavior while at the same time feel victimized by my parents in all of this.

My treatment of him makes me feel like I deserved his rage attacks later in our adult life.

When it comes to my brother and me and these types of interactions, I so wish I could go back, knowing what I know now. To have that awareness so that I can be kinder. I think it would change so much about our relationship probably, and also how I feel about myself.

I try to remember I was a product of the toxic and chaotic environment that was my family but it doesn’t make me feel any better about how I treated him or the way things turned out.

My Sister

When she was just a toddler (3 years old) and I was about 9, my sister always wanted to play with my gerbils. One day, while I was at school and she was unsupervised, she dragged a chair to my bedroom door in the hallway, stood on it and flipped the eye-hook lock that was meant to keep my younger siblings out of my room and the gerbils safe from the large family dog.

She of course used no precaution to keep the dog out when she entered, so when she took the lid off and took a gerbil out of the aquarium cage they lived in, it jumped onto the floor and the dog, instinctually stomped on it. Gerbil, dead on impact.

When I got home from school that day, just after I walked through the front door, I could see my mother and siblings sitting on the sofa with somber looks on their faces. My mom was the one to tell me the news. I don’t remember my immediate reaction.

I do remember however, how I felt during the preparation of the burial of this pet. We all kept walking back and forth from the basement to the back yard getting tools to dig up dirt for the grave and make a cross. I remember I was in so much emotional pain. It was overwhelming and a raging anger had built up during all of this walking back and forth. The family dog was right there as well, right along with us. The grief was also overbearing.

At the time I don’t think I was aware that I was angry at my mother for letting my sister invade my privacy that day and many other days before that. I was angry at my sister for causing the death of my beloved little pet. It was her fault this cute little gerbil was dead!

But even without being aware, when I think back on it now, I did know this, deep down I knew it was my mother’s fault. But to show anger toward my mother, to rage at my mother for making this happen, would surely mean abandonment for me.

So instead I got angry at the dog for delivering the deadly blow. I know even more deeply now than I did then, that it wasn’t his fault. But my little nine year old body needed an outlet for all the rage that had built up.

I’m ashamed that I smacked my dog as hard as I could with my little hand, while I tearfully raged, calling him a bad dog. And even then, he continued to walk beside us all, as we walked back and forth in preparation of a funeral for a rodent.

In response to my smacking the dog, my mom said, “I’ve already done that” in a somber and regretful tone.

What I really wanted to do was rage at my mother for not being a mother, for not stopping my sister from going into my room in the first place. I wanted to rage at my sister too. How dare they cause this unnecessary and untimely death to happen.

But I didn’t dare. Not only did I not have the words or understand my feelings of rage and anger at them, to rage at them, would surely mean a certain death for me.

The gerbil incident was one of the most painful events of my life as a child. The loss itself felt unbearable. But in addition to that, I wasn’t able and didn’t feel safe to direct my anger and rage toward the people who actually deserved it.

I’m angry that the opportunity for healthy relationships was stolen from me and my my siblings by not teaching us that all emotions are healthy and OK and that we weren’t nurtured and guided through those emotions to help us understand them as well as how to handle them.

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4 thoughts on “More Than Just Sibling Rivalry

  1. Your honesty about your guilty feelings over your regretful behavior is courageous and moving.

    I know how the grief of a young child over the death of a beloved pet can make you lash out. My little brother got mad at me and threw my cat across the room. She died. I was so mad, I hit my brother very hard. I want a redo, too.

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    • Aw, I’m so sorry for that horrible loss of your cat. And to see that, must have been traumatic. Probably a reflex action to hit the one who did it.

      It’s weird though that you wrote that because in the written version of that post, I wrote that if it had been my brother who had done that and not my sister, I probably wouldn’t have had a problem with beating him up, showing my anger to the one who would be the appropriate target. Not necessarily appropriate behavior though.

      If I had, I’d still want that redo too.

      I bullied my brother and spoiled my sister. I would take toys away from my brother if my sister wanted that toy, when she was really small. He was young too…not quite 3 years older than her.

      I believe my brother and sister were effected as much by how I treated them as we all were by my parents abuse and neglect. I’ve done some reading about that as well, not much but some, that a sibling’s abuse/bullying and other treatment can have a deep impact on them in adulthood.

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      • I have some thoughts about what you wrote here, regarding the bullying of siblings and how unhealthy family dynamics can lead to that. But right now I am too tired to put the words together, after all the emotional energy that went into the comment I just left on your previous post. So, maybe later. 🙂

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        • I understand. I’m still digesting the other comment. Would love to hear your thoughts.

          I carry a lot of guilt still and even shame. But I also think my behavior was a symptom of a much bigger picture. That applies in any scenario with any child, I believe, unless you think and believe that a psychopath can be born.

          Not sure I believe that. If that happens, I think it’s really rare. I think abuse is rampant and much more than most of us even know. Just reading your comments alone, clarifies that.

          And then that abuse can be perceived and absorbed in any number of ways by a child.

          It’s like your quote on your blog, “Trauma is a normal reaction to abnormal circumstances.” (Paraphrasing.)

          And that trauma can manifest itself in a child’s behavior in any number of ways. Behavior reflects how the brain is working.

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