The Brat strikes back

Relationships have to evolve to stay alive. When I look back on our courtship it was the OA pursuing and me playing the Princess. Today I fuss over him, settling his collar, planning a meal he enjoys and he soaks it up, as though it is his right. And it is, isn’t it? Anyhow, this post is not about us, it’s about the babies.

Their bond is changing from ideal, fairytale-like, into a real flesh and blood one. The Brat for all his peace-loving ways, is, like any brother, very aware of which buttons to press to irritate his sister. I could be sitting there seeing nothing and the Bean will turn purple and scream, ‘He’s irritating me. There. Right there. That thing he’s doing, blinking his eyes/twirling that piece of paper/breathing – there, he knows it irritates me and he’s doing it.’ And I’ll look back and forth, goldfish-like Β and wonder what just happened.

At times he won’t ‘allow’ her to use a word by simply saying, ‘You can’t say ‘red’, it’s my word.’ And the Bean will explode, screaming, crying, yelling. And I’ll take a deep breath and try and deal with it diplomatically.

At other times though, it won’t end that well and the Bean will hit him. Or kick him. If I’ve told her once, I’ve told her a hundred times that she’s not to be so free with her hands and legs, but she’s not one to take kindly to instruction. And when that happens the Brat looks at her with eyes full of sadness and a pain that rips through my heart. And he walks away. All while I’m screaming at her for hitting, asking him why he had to irritate her and generally wondering if it might not be less painful to put my head through a cement mixer.

I’ve raised him telling him to use his words instead of his hands and I can’t tell you how often I wonder if I did the right thing. I’ve also taught him that a gentleman never raises his hand on a woman. And he’s maintained that, never hitting his sister back in retaliation.

In the recent past though, they’ve begun to draw their lines, demarcate their space and struggle over turf. It’s been maddening, enlightening and crazy. And healthy for them too, I guess as they learn where one of them ends and the other begins.

Today I was on the phone and the Bean came sobbing to me, heartbroken. ‘Brat doesn’t love me anymore, he hates me, he doesn’t want to be my brother…’ Typical girl. No mention of the incident that triggered it, go straight for the emotional angle. I cuddled her, kissed her hair, assured her that her brother loved her and carried her to him.

And asked him why she was crying. He shrugged and held out his arm. Teeth marks. She’d bitten him and in sheer terror run to me, knowing that she’d really crossed a line.

I dropped her, washed his hand, put an antiseptic cream and cuddled him. All the while horrified, wondering how to deal with this. What do you do when one child of yours hurts the other so badly? Do you take sides? Do you do what you’d have done if neither was your child and you had to play judge?

I then took a call and asked her if she was a puppy dog, because humans don’t bite. There was not much else to be done because she was already shaking with regret and fear at what she’d done and finally she took herself off to the nursery to calm herself down.

Rocking the Brat I talked to him, asked him if his arm felt better and how he felt. And why he hadn’t reacted. At this point he looked up at me nervously and confessed,’ I hit her when she bit me because it hurt so badly.’

At this point readers, I wanted to fall to my knees and praise the Lord. I wish I could say I was torn, but I wasn’t. I nodded. Hitting his sister was not on, I pointed out, but letting himself be bullied was even more harmful. Next time, I pointed out, maybe you can just hold her away. ‘I held her hands, he said, which is why she bent down and bit my wrist so hard.’

I let it go.

Family politics and equations are created so early. The Bean is a very intelligent child who has for a long time, got away with hitting or kicking her brother because he won’t fight back. No doubt she is scolded and checked and punished by us, but she has him pegged for a pushover and she makes the most of it.

The Brat has a long fuse though and it’s taken him his time. And so the first time he hit back she broke down and sobbed like her heart was broken. I let her sob and suffer for a while. I won’t be around to protect him for life and I certainly don’t want the Bean to grow up believing that the mild are weak.

Dinner, baths, bedtime happened and the Bean was subdued after her father too got back from work and gave her a good talking to. An hour after lights out I stopped in to check on them and found her lying awake in bed. I climbed in next to her and we chatted for a while. She had thought about it for a long time and knew she was wrong. ‘Next time I’ll think of another way to tell him I’m angry. I don’t want to not have a brother,’ she said.

It’s not the end of the matter. I have a feeling it’s just the beginning. And next time it may not be so easily dealt with.


55 thoughts on “The Brat strikes back

  1. You know how old I am. The sibling is 2.5 years younger. Has sharp talons, which when they strike my delicate skin, always draw blood. The latest casualty happened 3 weeks ago. I playfully snatched something from her and she scratched my arm. Yes, yes, so mature we are.
    That said, i love what you said about the Brat not letting be taken as a pushover. My dad says this about his siblings and I know it to be true of my sister as well – as siblings, we all know (perhaps much more than our parents do) what it takes to make or break them and knowingly or unknowingly, we use or abuse this power. Letting the sibling know that we know, once in a while, helps in not being taken as a pushover. Happens with my sister rarely, but helps rein the tempers in.

  2. So reminds me of my childhood days. We are 3 sisters. Me being the middle one. Co-incidentally I share bday with brat and I was the calm (read peaceful) one like him while they hit and punched each other. Sometimes I was part of it too.

    There is a scene in the movie kannathil mutthamittal where siblings are fighting and the moment they hear their parents in the other room, they beg each other to calm down. It was exact same scene between us. πŸ™‚

    Hugs to dear bean and brat


  3. Tch. I feel bad for the Brat. So gentle, so loving. This kinda reminds me when I scratched my brother’s back till it bled (because he threw my doll outta the window!) and then cried and sobbed endlessly because I felt so guilty. Waise it’s a good thing that brat has learnt to stand up for himself. πŸ™‚

    P.s don’t be too hard on bean please πŸ™‚ she’s probably beaten herself up enough about this.

      • Of course it won’t. Bean seems like a very intelligent kid to me(like you describe her) and she’s probably learnt that she shouldn’t mess around with her brother anymore! πŸ™‚

  4. so the next phase begins?!
    I adored the sibling for the first 4 yrs, fought with her like cat and mouse for the next 4, ignored her completely for 4 yrs after and became friends after that. Not sure if all siblings do that…but we are ok now.

  5. I love the Brat coming into his own, it is very important to let people, particularly family know that you’re not to be treated like ghar ki murgi daal barabar. Of everyone in the world, family tends to take you for granted the most. Sometimes I think it’s very important to draw that line in the sand.

    Btw Kannathil Mutthamittal is a wonderful movie, deals with the LTTE issue and adoption. Stellar performances by Simran and Madhavan and Rahman’s music is soul stirring. You should absolutely watch it.

      • Where’d my second comment go? KM is a lovely movie but a total tear jerker. And knowing you, you will probably cry over it for days. Soch lena, aap. I am in your town next week, I could get you the DVD, if you wish. Mailing you right away.

        • I agree with Maia, but Simran played the role of a mom caught between the needs of her children so beautifully. And I would watch it over and over again for Rahman’s rendition of Vellai Pookal. I cried and cried and I watched it when DD wasn’t anywhere on the horizon but every tear was worth it.

  6. This is a tricky one, because you’ve taught Brat that hitting a girl is not ok. I wonder, though, could you teach him that hitting back in self-defense is ok… or would it be too tricky for a kid to judge that? Thinking aloud here; I suppose I’ll be facing this with my kids some years down the line.

    I remember something my Mil told me. My sister-in-law, the eldest sibling, was bossy and had a bad temper. My husband, the youngest child, was often at the receiving end of a tight slap from her… granted that he could also be a pesky younger brother doing irritating stuff. My Mil told my sister-in-law though that she better watch out because he’s growing up and one day he would hit her back. I don’t think he actually ever hit her, but I think once when she hit him, he shoved her and she backed off after that. Hmmm not sure what the moral of this story is. The inevitability of the even the calm ones striking back, maybe.

    • Oh I’ve been telling him that its okay to hit in self defence for ages now – but he still doesn’t believe it/act on it until he is pushed too far. And I’ve also told the Bean that the Brat is twice her size so she better be careful not to push him too far and count on his calm nature forever. But this is a grey area in my mind too. Is it ever okay for a man to hit a woman? Even if he is being verbally abused? Even if she hits? Men are so much stronger and I’ve grown up being told that boys don’t hit girls – no two ways about it.

  7. I used to fight with my brother too. I remember biting him once and him crying out to my mother screaming, “Amma, she’s changed the colour of my skin!” It was, of course, the bruise changing colour.
    But I think that sometimes biting and kicking and punching can be less harmful to a sibling relationship than completely ignoring them or making snide remarks.

  8. Omg…MM, it could be easily my S and S…the son irritating verbally and daughter lashing out physically. We have been there…biting, running to the doctor in panic and asking her to use more words to convey her anger and begging him to stop irritating her. Yeah I use labels too ..dogs when she bites, donkey when she kicks her brother. Sigh nothing ever works and the game continues in our house !

  9. Oh! Oh!

    Just to let you know that the age difference between my brother and me is pretty much similar to Brat and Bean..and yes he also has never ever hit me because thats what Amma had taught him very early on…me on the other hand, have been the one who had hit, bitten, pulled his hair and what not…

    Amma never used to take sides…until one day, she really lost it and started scolding brother big time and I started crying telling Amma it was all my fault πŸ™‚ So there, guess it always happens…elder brothers are definitely very sensible folks πŸ™‚

  10. You know what MM, it probably WILL happen again. Thats part of being siblings and growing up together. My sister and I are 5 years apart and we’re the most loving, doting, cant-live-without-each-other kind of sisters. In our childhood we argued and fought a lot, which if you ask me is essential and healthy. But we also had the odd physical fight. She’d sit on me, I’d whack her, we’d throw our arms around and whack whatever got in the way. It happened very rarely, but when it did, it was bad. And most often, it was required. Because I was the pushover (emotionally and physically) with the high threshold, and she was the annoying one. And that was our way of drawing the line, when things got too much to handle.
    The good bit is, despite all that I loved/LOVE her to bits. And from what little I’ve seen of the Brat and the Bean the inherant sibling love probably overrides everything else. The fact that the Bean felt miserable for what she had done says it all. Please dont be hard on her, and over think this πŸ™‚

  11. Oops, that’s a difficult situation. Being the only child of my parents and having no children of our own yet, I wouldn’t know how to deal with this situation. However, I am sure you will deal with it well, with your motherly instinct and clarity. πŸ™‚

  12. Feel sad for the Brat and the bean – Im sure they have both felt guilty enough about the whole incident and atleast calm will prevail for a few days-or atleast for a few days while you remind them of this incident. But, Im sure it WILL happen – Brother and me have had fist fights and pushed each other to the wall – all for the remote when we were both old enough to understand that its wrong – just sheer power struggle i think. And then apologised and made up – I think its a part of siblings growing up – isnt it?

    PS: Loved the header…especially that pink nail polish πŸ™‚

    • Erm, this might be good time for a full disclosure. I was well into my teens when the brother and I were fighting over who would nap on the couch. We were lying in opposite directions with our feet near the other’s face. He kicked me in the face and I bit his toe πŸ˜€

  13. Oh the sibling rivalry! Well, as long as the Bean realizes her mistake. Though I was a bit surprised to know that the Brat actually lost his cool to raise his hand on his sister. I’m not experienced enough to judge how kids will behave, but I hope the fear of losing her brother does reduce her violence!

    I have a brother 3 years younger and we have shed each other’s blood uncountable times. I’ve done everything from blackmailing him into doing stuff for me to leaving nail marks on his face because he purposely spilled a glass of water that I’d filled for him. He was never far behind either. Pulled out a whole bunch of hair from my head once. But when I had to leave to boarding school, he cried. And I missed him. Thats when we realized that we cant do without each other. Strange how distance actually brings people closer!

  14. Since I am commenting for the first time, let me mention that you write beautifully!!!…I see my husband and his 1.5 yr older sister squabble like school going kids and wonder what the hell is wrong with them. Then I sit back and realize that the sibling chemistry is always different everywhere. My sister who’s 5 years older than I’ve been has been staying away from the house since I was in class-8 and I cherished the days she was home(though ofcourse with our share of fights). So now, both of us have grown up to love each other too much to actually feel bad about anything we say to each other. She’s always been too generous towards me and I’ve always been demanding. So it kinda works well between us. I think the Brat and the Bean will just figure out their perfect chemistry on their own….

  15. Eeek. This made me think of my sister and I – but it was me that had the bad temper. In fact, I still remember the day I ‘crossed the line’ by throwing a steel cup at her not expecting to actually hit her but it sliced her forehead and she ended up having to get stitches. She now has a very Harry Potter-esque scar above her right eyebrow and I am still overcome with guilt every time I see that.

    I think it was because she never fought back that made me madder. That being said, the shock of REALLY hurting my baby sister took the fight out of me and I’ve never done it since.

    (Although, it seems I have a tendency to give my sister stitches – I once pushed her down the stairs when I was five but I don’t remember it. Gah. I’m terrible.)

  16. So the fights have started. It happens in every home having more than one kid. I’m glad that Bean realized her mistake and learnt her lesson without you having to teach her. And the Brat on the other hand, I don’t know what to say about him. He’s almost Zen-like. I feel like he can hold so much love in his heart. Bless his soul. But he too can break sometimes, like he did. Everybody does. We all have different sehenshakti πŸ™‚

  17. This reminds me of me and my sister. We fought, hit, kicked, wrestled on the bed, threw things and generally did every violent thing two little kids could possibly do. It horrified my parents – they couldn’t have ever imagined that their two *daughters* could be so violent and wild. And since my sister was four years younger and weaker, she often resorted to biting and scratching to overpower me. And even after the most violent fight, we’d just need a few hours to cool off, and then we’d behave like everything was perfectly normally – while our poor parents lost a few years off their life with worry for those very few hours!

    And now we’re very close. We talk every single day, meet as often as possible, share things, understand each other like nobody else does and pretty much treat each other as a partial extension of ourselves.

    So don’t worry so much. This is all a part of siblings growing up together. The love and the hate. The affection and the fights. And because they have such a strong foundation, their relationship will weather these fights too.

    Also, in my opinion, its okay to hit a girl if she is physically assaulting/abusing you, atleast to stop the violence and to send across the message that she better watch out. I’m ashamed to say this but many years ago, in the midst of crazy arguments with my then boyfriend, I’d push/shove him to make a point; he’s always tell me not to do that but my ugly temper lacked any form of self-control. After many months of this, one fine day, he shoved me back (not too roughly) and said evenly “Physical violence is not okay, whether its you or me. Just because I don’t shove back doesn’t mean I can’t”. That’s what it took to make me realise how absolutely awful and unacceptable my behaviour was. That said and done, I don’t know if the Brat is yet old enough to understand the difference between reacting to make a point (that he can give it back too) and and reacting with the intention of causing equal violence – but as he grows up he needs to learn that the former is important, na?

    • I would have entirely believed this was my sister commenting, but for the fact that Ramya is an older sister too. Replace names and the age gap and the entire comment (the Ex- boyfriend reference included – nothing I am proud of!) sounds eerily similar to my story.

    • This comment made me think of my relationship with my husband. When we were newly married and had our silly arguments I used to hit him and scratch him while he never retaliated. Once when I tried to walk away he held me close and didn’t let me go though I struggled with all my might. That day I realized how physically stronger than me and my respect and love for him grew tenfold. So while the silly arguments continue I haven’t scratched him since. Brat will make a great husband someday!

  18. The last line of yours on how bean felt just flooded me with a lot of memories of the nasty fights that the sibling and I have had. Our nasty fights, like with all siblings,continue to this day, wherein we could end up saying something horrid to each other, bawl/slam doors and patch up. I guess it’s started with both of them…And I guess, these fights would only bring them closer. But, ain’t going to be easy on you, as these phases will continue and as they grown up morph into verbal fights as well…(of course, the hitting/clawing never stops :D)

  19. Wanted to ask you since a long time back. Have you ever given them a whack when they are really bad? My kids get it from their mother (I am the spoiler, she is the disciplinarian). I manage things by shouting at them.

    Puting the question open to the board. Which is the better evil, whacking or shouting ?

    • Oh yes. They get it once in a while when they really push their luck. I don’t know which is the bigger evil. Anything in excess I suppose. But the whacks are rationed, so they know they’re really in trouble.

  20. Same story here too.The little one is all agression and gives a handful to her sister whenever she does not give in to her demands.And J silently takes it.And you are right,its only the beginning..I can tell you that as I face the same situation everyday.And my heart goes out to the Brat as I know the Bean knows her way around and is better equipped .I have run out of ideas to pacify the situations.How about doing a post on it?

  21. what do you do when two of your own kids hit / hurt each other with such force ?? i have an almost 7 yr old boy and and 3.5 yr old girl.. he kicks / punches / shoves ..she bites / scratches face / tries to gouge his eyes out !! .. more often than not, it is the elder one who comes crying to me, while the fiestier younger one, pants, stares down and readies herself for round two !!

    P.s. in case anyone is wondering, they love each other like crazy, and often combine their mighty forces too against their parents too !!

  22. This reminds me so much of me and my sister πŸ™‚ We love each other to bits, but even in our 20s, the occasional clawing/hitting still occurs. And yes, when our parents try to intervene and stop us from fighting, we immediately gang up against them and tell them not to interfere, that we love each other but we still need to fight to vent πŸ™‚ Methinks its a healthy thing πŸ™‚

    Just curious – does the OA have a sibling? How does he react to this? I find single children are often clueless to understand sibling fighting πŸ™‚ And also, a general question – is it always the younger kid who is more aggressive?

    I loved loved loved this post, MM. The new header image is beautiful too πŸ™‚

    • The OA does have siblings. And he says his parents solved problems by simply banging their heads together. There’s a thought.
      I don’t know if younger kids are more aggressive. I remember being the more violent one with my brother.
      Thanks – the header image was clicked for the blogadda interview. I wear that hat when I’m gardening in the sun πŸ™‚

  23. I used to fight with my brother (kicking, scratching, hitting, pulling hair, yelling, throwing things) till I went away from home to do B.Tech. Then we missed each other….and have become good friends since then.

    For a spirited person like bean, it will be hard to bottle up anger/irritation. So I would be surprised if she stops with this incident.

    I have never met a kid who needed a push to defend himself/hit back. As much as I worry about brat getting hurt by this world, I still don’t want him to lose his precious no-matter-what-kindness 😦

    In the end, I’m kind of relieved that I’m not in your shoes and don’t have to take such hard decisions. Sorry woman!

    By the way…
    1. Kannathil muthamittal is a total recco. There are things that I don’t agree with; but still…what a movie! Now get a DVD already.
    2. The new header looks cool (and posed. which paint?)

    • πŸ™‚ Posed for the blogadda interview because they insisted on a pic and I’m not comfortable with that. The pain is Revlon – I checked but there seems to be no name on it.
      The hat is what I wear when I’m gardening in the sun and waiting for the kids’ bus to arrive in the afternoons. Neighbours think I’m nuts, I’m sure!

  24. I am more worried about the Bean. She does need to learn the lesson that it’s not OK to take things too far (emotionally or physically) even if you can get away with it – because sooner or later there will be repurcussions – either a physical hitback, or an emotional withdrawing of the other person. I have learnt it the hard way with some loved folks – took them for granted and pushed them around a lot emotionally because, well, they let me – and eventualy they retreated emotionally. The lesson does need to be taught early on.

  25. aah! My kids are 21 months apart ( a 4.5 year old boy and a 2.5 year old girl)and I totally get the bit about not understanding what it is that’s irritating them. It took my son 6 months before he actually hit back for something… the other day they were all mad at each other and fighting.. an when i pulled the two apart, my son told me that they were fighting and that they would sort it out..(eerr, ok) . so now unless it gets serious, i let them sort it out. Breaks my heart… but I believe they need to build their own equations and their own boundaries.

  26. Completely unrelated but i have to ask – WHO TOOK THE HEADER PHOTO? they have an awesome sense of timing – look at your fingers, delicately poised.. and your mouth slightly open!

    • The OA took it. And lets not compliment him, shall we? We’ll never be able to shrink his head back to normal πŸ™‚
      And thank you!
      btw – my mouth is open because I’m busy telling him how to click.

  27. Ha..i have so much to say… always have so much to say when its about sibling love/rivalry ..but i’m exhausted and so don’t feel line penning or rather typing it all. You know i think the sibling relationship is one created by God with LOTS of thought..i know he prolly does that for ALL relationships , but specially so for this one..Me thinks!

    Also…yes, pls do watch Kannathil Muthamital. Love the story, actors/actresses/music..just everything.

    n hey, How are you?! I haven’t been in-touch or active off-late..but do care.

  28. I never fail to read any of your posts, MM, and this one has wrapped itself around my heart. You are a wonderful mother, MM. Hats off to you.

    And now let me repeat the now cheesy and oft-repeated line- it reminds me of my childhood with two younger brothers who are twins. They would invariably get into physical fights between themselves a la boys, and I, being the elder by 4 yrs, would get scolded for not interfering. If I did interfere and try to stop them, the two would join hands and turn against me. Oh, they weren’t as gentlemanly then like the Brat, and I’ve had my share of fights with them.

  29. Pingback: And the Brat turns seven | The Mad Momma

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