How to Teach Your Kids to Hate Each Other

Another one I’m re-homing from Safire Falcon. This one was written in November of 2014. It had another title, kind of clunky. This one’s not so great either but that’s what I’m calling it.

I misinterpreted my sister’s tone after the plug from the curling iron fell from the outlet into the sink. We’d both been standing at the bathroom mirror and I was attempting to curl my hair.  I was in my twenties at that point and my family had fairly recently moved into this particular house.

The darkness of depression had already been part of my world, those feelings of being trapped by and in life started a few years before the above scene, when we were living at the house I’d lived in since I was 10. And I was probably in the deepest darkest depths of it at the time of the move.

The move contributed to the added intensity but I was in it already and in deep. At that point I had no idea what I was most likely suffering from was symptoms of complex trauma, and it wasn’t crossing anyone else’s mind either.

The emotional abuse had always had an impact on my life but it was starting to take a bigger toll. And no wonder. I was in my early 20s. I should have been living on my own, or at least settled into a college major. But I was still lost. Not only that, I had begun to have (age-appropriate) intimate relationships a couple years prior. And within those relationships, is where the most intense turmoil shows up.

I was even less aware how the stage had already begun being set for my role as family scapegoat and continued to be .

My sister said, “Careful.”

My first thought was that her comment was condescending and that she was assuming I was a careless sort of person. I replied with a sneer of annoyance and resentment, “The water’s not even running.”

Translation: “No worries little sister, you’re not in danger and how dare you imply that I am so careless. It certainly isn’t my fault the outlet won’t hold the plug.”

That’s not what I said, but the tension between us was thick and the rift deep, by the time this incident happened, something we were both aware of. I was too angry to care though.  For whatever reason, after my nasty reply, her response was a matter of fact tone that carried with it a touch of hurt and confusion.

“I was just thinking about you.” She really did sound sincere.

Instantly I felt like shit…that I’d misinterpreted her intention. The relationship that had once been close was falling apart. But my anger blinded me, filtered out so much of my thoughts and feelings. It was safer to be angry. But it hurt. I hated being angry all the time. If I ever felt lost before this, it was nothing compared to what I was continuing to feel in this part of my adulthood.

I didn’t understand it really and didn’t know the first thing about how to go about fixing it.

My sister had already physically attacked me a few years before that. She had her own impulse control and anger issues.

My misinterpretation existed, it was harmful, but it didn’t exist in a vacuum. The toxicity of my family had grown into an ugly tumor that everyone seemed to prefer to ignore. I was certainly angry about the past, the way my father treated me and even about my mother’s neglect, but at that point in time my anger encompassed many things, even things I was unaware of.

Like being lost with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. With not feeling settled with a significant other, which really equates to me not being settled within myself. With my father who treated anyone I dated like shit. With my sister for not understanding. With my parents for not helping me out of the darkness, for moving, for not listening to me, for making me feel wrong for every emotion I felt. For thinking that my wanting to resolve present and even past issues was ridiculous and that I should just let it go.

“How often do I need to discuss it? It doesn’t change anything.,” were my father’s words one day when I approached him to talk about something bothering me from my childhood.

My sister’s physical attack on me however, was provoked by some passive remark I had made. But unfortunately I don’t remember what I said. The memory of that crosses with another incident…

Shortly after I’d graduated from high school, my father had won a trip to Cancun for a week from his job, so my parents took that vacation.

My siblings were still in school though and I was informed that it was my responsibility to make sure the other two went to school. The message was that if they didn’t I would be punished.

What that meant now that I was an adult, I didn’t know. I suppose they could still enforce a grounding since I still lived under their roof. But disappointing them was punishment in and of itself, (Failure. Not good enough. Fucked up again) not to mention my father’s seething or booming threatening voice. My cortisol levels would rise just thinking about that.

One night while they were on that vacation,  after my sister had gone to bed…with her boyfriend, I was in the kitchen with my boyfriend and my brother, waiting for some oil to heat up in a pan. I had the ‘bright’ idea of deep frying some frozen pizza bites.

Sitting there yackin’ away, I didn’t realize how hot the oil was getting and the pan began to smoke.  I got up and quickly removed it from the burner.

But it suddenly went up in flames. And all three of us panicked.

My boyfriend, grabbed the pot as I lifted the screen in the kitchen window so he could throw it outside into the yard. When I let go of the screen, it slammed right back down causing the pan to be forced back, splashing hot oil onto his hands and all over the floor.

He kept that pan in his hands while we all panicked trying to figure out what to do with it. Walking it to the front door meant walking it over carpeting that could catch fire.

We went back to the kitchen window and I opened the screen again. This time he flung the pot and it flew successfully outside. I don’t remember how we got the fire out.

We were so lucky the house didn’t go up in flames. The curtains in the kitchen ignited during all the chaos, and I had been able to get them out the window too. And just as my memory is blank on how the fire in the pan was put out, such is the case for the curtains.

I remember during all the commotion, just after the the fire started, that my sister had made a sudden appearance in the kitchen to see what all the noise was about. Thinking about it now, I can imagine the shock and fear she probably felt. She would’ve been around 13.

After his heroic act, I saw my boyfriend’s hands were badly burnt and I got him to come to the kitchen sink, running water as cold as I could get it on his hands. I told him I wanted to take him to the ER but he refused. He couldn’t sleep that night. In pain, he tossed and turned all night.

He was unable to work after the injury while he healed. He was also angry because after telling my parents the story, he felt they should’ve compensated him in some way. And he wasn’t shy about letting me know it. I didn’t know what to think. I told him I’d talk to them about it, but he said not to.

After this horrendous incident, there was oil all over the kitchen floor, so to prevent anyone from slipping, before going to bed that night, I poured salt on top of all the oil.

The next morning I went to work before my siblings were up. I was so depressed about going to work. I worked in a pub/restaurant kitchen and I hated it. My mind always went into dark places while I worked and it would exacerbate my depression. And this day I had the added benefit of anticipating the clean up after I got home from work. I couldn’t even think where I’d begin with it.

When I got home I found my sister in the kitchen, just having finished cleaning up the greasy mess. My work day ended early enough, that if my sister had gone to school, she wouldn’t be home when I got there.

Most people would be thrilled at this whole scenario, little sister staying home to clean up a huge mess that I made, saving me the trouble after eight hours of already shitty work that entailed being on my feet the entire day.  Yeah…but not me. I was pissed AND annoyed that she hadn’t gone to school. I know I was thinking about the disappointment, anger and the possibility of my dad’s rage, toward ME for her not going to school. They would be angry at me for what she didn’t do. This was all I could think about in the moment I saw and knew she hadn’t gone to school.

Never mind the house almost catching fire. Never mind the huge thing sis had just done for me.

I look back on this and cringe and kick myself. I think about how different our relationship might be now if I  had not reacted, not just on this day but many other days in a similar manner.

That day, (although the memory is fuzzy) I’m more than sure that I let her have it, yelling about how mom and dad would be angry at ME for her not going to school.

I raged (from what I now know was fear) and she responded whining,  with something like, “I stayed home to clean up the mess.”

How ashamed I felt. How awful that I did not have room in my heart for gratitude in this situation because all I could think about was my parents reaction of me not being in control of the situation.

I don’t remember if I apologized but even if I had, it would not erase the original response and reaction. Damage done.

The physical attack though, that was a different thing around a different incident but it was also in the kitchen. Again the memory is fuzzy, but there was some exchange of words and likely something passive aggressive from me.

The next thing I knew I was up against the counter, next to the fridge trying to block the claws that were slashing at and toward my face looking at the twisted anger and hurt on my sister’s face.

I swung in an attempt at self-defense, in an arc and missed. I think that I subconsciously missed on purpose. I didn’t want to hurt my baby sister, despite the viciousness I was seeing and feeling from her.

I finally lifted my leg forward and pushed my foot into her gut and flung her away from me. Somehow I was able to get away then and ran up to my room. I was physically and emotionally hurt and scared, but the emotional hurt was much worse.

After having been so close in childhood, we were beginning to hate each other.

________________________________________________________________________________________

I know that my sister’s physical attack didn’t happen with the grease-on-the-floor incident because my mom had been home. She’d been at work or otherwise out and when she got home she’d come up to my room to see me, to see how I was, to talk to me, to see the wounds.

She looked at my face and assured me I wouldn’t be left with scars. The ‘scratch’ that ran down my cheek was only superficial. And in fact it was not an outer scratch. The red mark was under the skin and did indeed fade without a mark.

My mom also delivered my sister’s apology for her and let me know my sister felt really awful about the incident.

[This is very interesting to me now, in regards to the setting up of later triangulations.]

I don’t remember if my sister herself had apologized after I emerged from my room or not.

I feel sad thinking about how the relationship deteriorated between my sister and me. It was gradual but then it was all of a sudden too. We had some years in between when things seemed to get better and we used to sit on my futon and play Mario Brothers for hours. One of my most fond memories is staying home on a snow day and playing Mario Bros all day long.

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