Friday, October 13, 2000

Friday night fights

Playing now at my house, every morning, every evening, every waking moment: It’s the Sibling Rivalry Wars! The excitement never ends, nor does Mama’s pounding headache.

In this corner, weighing in at a skinny 40 pounds, is The Little Brother. He’s small but quick, darting in to slug or scratch his sister before the referee can intervene. He attacks with stealth, while peacefully watching TV, while passing in the hall, out of nowhere. He apologizes with a jaw-dropping lack of sincerity. His tiny lungs hurl insults and provocations at ear-piercing volume. When his dreaded rival emerges from school with her classmates, he shouts “You’re Stupid! You’re Stinky!” If anybody else said such things to this girl, the referee would have to report him to the principal. But The Little Brother operates under a cloak of impulsivity and family immunity that makes it difficult for the referee to exact appropriate punishment. She hopes his speech impediment renders his words indecipherable to the other children. They are not indecipherable, however, to...

...the competitor in this corner, The Big Sister. Weighing in at a whopping 80 pounds, her superior size and strength would give her the upper hand in any physical confrontation, but she is forbidden to exercise that advantage. So she wields her superior skills at sarcasm to wound her opponent. Whatever he says, she greets with “Whatever” and a roll of the eyes. Whatever he does, she downgrades. When he weaves some plans for a game of pretend, she points out he’ll still be in his room the whole time. Words like “Liar!” “Fraidycat!” and “Copycat!” roll of her tongue, precipitating endless bouts of “Am not!” “Are too!” and “I’m right and you’re wrong.” When her brother retreats to his room and tells her to “Go Away,” she must necessarily stand in his doorway and glare at him, forcing him to shout “Go Away” yet louder and louder still until the referee cries for mercy. When her enemy is being too loud or too annoying or simply too present, she brings out her ultimate weapon: the Hand Before the Eyes. She is able to obliterate his very existence simply by blocking her vision of him. Or so she hopes.

In the middle, having a really bad day, is the referee, otherwise known as Mama, or more commonly as “Mooooooooooom, he/she’s bugging me!” She knows that this sort of rivalry is perfectly natural and normal, and not expressly designed to drive her batty. These are developmentally delayed kids, they are siblings by adoption, they are speech impaired, all this interaction and on-target kid-stuff is good. It’s good. It’s good. She repeats this over and over, hoping it will block out the sound of the skirmishes. It does not. She is happy they are doing something right. Really she is. But she wants them to CUT IT THE HECK OUT anyway. Be nice to each other. Be nice to their mama. Be quiet.

The referee is dreaming.

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