Monday, April 04, 2005

An Unconventional Approach to Sibling Rivalry

I am going to submit this post to the Blogging For Books contest. This month's theme is Cruelty.

For this Blogging for Books, write about the cruelest thing you have ever done - either to another person or to yourself.

I am an only child. Growing up, I hated it. Everyone else had a brother or a sister; all I had was two perfectionist parents. When I was little, I promised myself that I would never, ever, stop at just one kid. I’d have two or more.

A couple years after I got married, we had our first son. I knew nothing about raising babies, and my parents were 500 miles away. It was pretty much a trial and error process. I’ll readily admit that I made a lot of mistakes during the first few years, but I learned from them.

In addition to that, our baby “I” spent the first two weeks of his life in the hospital. For the first week, I wasn’t even allowed to see him; then they let me come see him for 30 minutes a day.

Long story short, I do not know if it was nurture or nature, but “I” grew up to be a very unusual toddler. He was pretty smart for his age, very inquisitive, but he didn’t care a whole lot about other kids. In fact, he rarely acknowledged their existence. He was very independent, and started playing on his own fairly early. His favorite pastime was taking apart old electronics using screwdrivers, pliers and other tools. He very obviously did not need any other children in his life.

Not that I let it stop me. I was dead set on having another baby before “I” turned three. So, at 28 months, he got a gift from his parents – a little, adorable baby brother.

Did I mention we lived in Russia in a one-room apartment? (No, not one-bedroom… there was one room, period).

“I” disliked the baby pretty much at first sight. “K” was very cute and cuddly. He also was the most colicky baby that ever existed. He caught his first cold when he was two weeks old, and proceeded to get sick about once a month. He cried all night, and had to be held all day. He was born on Friday the 13th, poor guy.

Needless to say, “I” did not appreciate being kept awake at night, or the fact that Mom couldn’t pick him up and hold him anymore. He didn’t understand what was going on. He was miserable. He cried a lot. Once he tried to stab me with a screwdriver while I was nursing his baby brother. My heart was breaking for “I”, but there wasn’t much I could do for him. I was in over my head with a baby, a toddler, a household to run, and no money to run it on.

When “K” was six months old, and at his most adorable, “I” started telling everybody that he wanted the baby dead. That didn’t faze “K”, who worshiped his big brother. But you should have seen my in-laws when the three-year-old “I” told them, during our visit, “Why don’t we put “K”’s stroller on the rails, maybe a train will come and run him over”.

When the boys were 4 years and 15 months old, we came to America. By then, it was a given that “I” didn’t like “K”. We all got used to it. We just tried to keep them apart. "K" finally figured out that his brother didn't like him, and started to fight back. I never knew a one-year-old could pack such a mean punch.

Things came to a head around Christmas of that year. “K” was two years old, and getting cuter every day. Everyone in our apartment building liked him. He even had a girlfriend at his daycare center. “I” was almost five, very serious for his age. I used to go on long walks with him, and we had the most interesting conversations during our walks. Or, I read to him and he listened and asked questions. One Saturday morning, I left Mr. Goldie to watch the kids and went into the laundry room to put in a new load. When I came back, Mr. Goldie was happily playing on the computer, and the kids were nowhere to be found.

“Where are the kids,” I asked.
“You mean they’re not here?” replied the surprised Mr. Goldie, and went back to his game.

I went around the building searching for the kids. No luck. I walked downstairs and ran into our apartment manager, who was holding both kids by their hands. She looked shocked.

What happened was, “I” took “K” outside and they went into the parking lot. (Keep in mind, it was December, snow everywhere, and “K” was in his pajamas). They stood in front of the parking garage. A car came out, “I” ran away, and “K” remained standing in front of the car. That’s when the apartment manager saw them both out of her window, and came to the rescue.

I couldn’t sleep that night. “I” had always wanted the baby dead. What if he had done it on purpose? What if he would do it again? Next morning on my way to work, I hatched a horrible plan.

When I came home from work that day, the kids greeted me, but I was on my mission. “’K’, go play with your toys. 'I', come with me. We need to talk”. I walked him into the closest bedroom and locked the door. “I” was staring at me, not sure what to expect.

I began like this: “’I’, you know that, as your mother, it is my job to make sure that you’re alive and healthy”. He was with me so far, so I went on, “Likewise, it is my job to make sure that “K” is alive and healthy, too. And if anybody threatens his life or health, I will have to fight that person. I know about the car, and I want to tell you this – if anything ever happens to “K” because of you, you won’t be living with us anymore. We’ll send you to a foster home”.

“I” was speechless! His eyes were round and his ears seemed to wave from fear! I loved him to death and I would’ve never had it in me to send him to a foster home. I guess that means I was bluffing. But I really, really didn’t want my two kids killing each other. That just had to stop!

A few uneventful months went by. All of a sudden, “I” started playing with “K”. One day “K” didn’t want to take a bath, and I forced him, and “I” started crying because he felt sorry for his brother. I never felt more relieved in my whole life, even though “I” called me a bad Mom and told me he wasn’t my friend anymore. Things got a lot easier for us from there. The boys are 9 and 12 now. I cannot say they are best friends, because they are very different people. “I” is still the loner; “K” is still the social guy. They tease each other and call each other “fatass” and “nerd”. But somehow I have a feeling that they’ll turn out okay, and that they will stand up for each other if need be.

One evening, when “I” was seven or eight, the two of us were talking, when suddenly he said, in a very serious voice:

“Don’t have anymore babies, Mom. If you have another baby, I will defend myself from him, and I will also protect “K” from that baby!”

“You know, ‘I’”, I replied, after some thought, “Do you remember when I said I was going to send you to a foster home? I didn’t really mean it”.

“Aw, I know,” said “I”, “not a problem”.

The Goldie has spoken at 12:45 PM

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