That's me. The oldest child of three, for a long time while we were growing up, I was the biggest, so I was the boss of them. At least that's how I saw it. We lived in a tarpaper shack in the woods, far from prying eyes where, even if any in those days, and too few now, had known would they have interfered in other people's business. Being the biggest meant being the one who beat up the rest of the family and got away with it. That was Dad.
Next biggest was Mom. But her Mother beat the living daylights and any spirit she was born with out of her early on. And Dad made sure she didn't find it again. So she didn't count. Me next. Dad did his best to beat it out of me, too, but as he always said, I was the meanest bitch ever born. He said I was born mean like my grandmother, only smarter, and got meaner every day after that. His favorite story proved that.
I was 33 months old, and my younger brother was 16 months old. It was Christmas. My brother wanted my new doll carriage. I wanted it, too. We pulled back and forth, but he was strong for a little guy. Dad said I figured out that if I let go at just the right time, the baby would fall back against the wood stove, get burnt so badly that he'd have the scar to remind him forever who was boss, and I'd get my way after all.
So by the time I was seven, he was five and a half, and our younger brother was four, I was big enough to be left in charge of them three evenings a week while Mom and Dad went to work. As the oldest, I was held responsible for anything that went wrong. I figured I had to beat the crap out of them to avoid a few extra beatings myself. All's fair… By then the boys were big enough to fight back big time, so it took more and more to remind them who was boss.
One evening the youngest and I were battling at the top of the stairs, when I took advantage of the moment and pushed him. No big deal. We'd all survived that much and more. But that time he didn't get up swinging. He didn't get up at all. I waited. Nothing. I told him to knock off the faking and get up. Nothing. I kicked him, expecting him to grab for my ankle. Nothing. I burst into tears then, cried out I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Please don't be dead. I love you. I didn't mean to hurt you.
I was on the floor beside him. He wasn't breathing. I hugged him, kissed him, promised I'd never hit him again if only he lived. He was so small, like my very own baby. I took care of him, fed him, protected him from our other brother and everyone else who tried to treat him mean. It was me who ran at Dad, kicking and punching, trying to make him stop kicking my brothers like footballs from one side of the room to the other.
Suddenly air exploded from his mouth. I was so happy! He was alive! Then he laughed hard, really hard. So I had to beat the crap out of him to teach him not to ever, no never, do that to me again.
Sibling abuse and neglect are seldom discussed in any serious way in the average family. Part of the reason for that neglect, is a tendency to assume kids will be kids and besides, how much damage can siblings do against one another anyway? More than you want to know.
Seeking to make a change?
What makes kids care?: Teaching gentleness in a violent world
Information about Sibling Violence:
Beyond rivalry, a Hidden World of Sibling Violence
Sibling Conflicts: Roughhousing vs. Abuse
Selected Resources on Sibling Abuse: An Annotated Bibliography for Researchers, Educators and Consumers
Sibling Abuse Forum-Links
A Child is Waiting,
Take care...be aware,
Monday, December 31, 2007
Siblings will use physical violence
because they have learned it
from their parents or other adults...
one study found that 76% of the children
who were repeatedly abused by their parents
also abused their siblings