“Make a truce.”
“Don’t break each other’s head.”
“Both of you say sorry to each other.”
“Sibling fights are normal, cheer up.”
The lockdown has been an uncertain period. Being someone with a busy college schedule full of multiple activities, I didn’t usually spend much time at home.
My parents have been very supportive of the academic choices my elder brother and I have made, and we have been faring well in our chosen areas – I’m a social sciences student and my brother is studying medicine. He completed his graduation this year and came back home after almost six years.
As siblings with a three-year age gap, we often had arguments even when we were kids. Our parents used to hold us both equally responsible. Sometimes, when the fights got physical, they took a stand for me. However, they would later tell me how I should be a “good child” and not get triggered by his comments.
I had thought that over the past six years, the bond my brother and I share had been strengthened as we didn’t get to meet often and had healthy conversations when we did.
But that utopian ideal was blasted to smithereens this lockdown. Negging has been a constant feature, snaking its way into all conversations. I have also been made to realise that my academic choices have put me at the lowest rung on the tree that is my joint family. Having my brother make comments about my choices, and my supposed inefficiencies and deficiencies, has made lockdown unbearable.
During the same period, I’ve read a lot of literature addressing what it’s like to live in toxic households. Let’s not leave out sibling bullying while having that conversation. There is a thin line between siblings picking on each other and bullying. It is not always the elder sibling who is the aggressor – this is defined by other power dynamics in society like gender, careers and academic preferences.
The frequency, intent and power equations between the bully and the victim underline the difference between a ‘normal’ sibling fight and bullying. Fights between siblings are often undermined due to familial love, however, sibling bullying torments the victim’s personal growth. Like peer bullying, it can cause social anxiety, depression and stress.
I realised that over the past six years, because I had other things happening in my life to distract me, I had been letting such talk from him slide and had not been too affected by it.
But with the lockdown, dealing with his passive aggressive behaviour and lack of empathy towards me has affected my will to undertake constructive activities. My self-esteem and confidence have taken a hit.
I have realised that this is not simply a case of “kids being kids”. I hope my parents do too.
Featured image credit: Thomas Claeys/Unsplash