I was at a buffet a few months ago and saw a brother playing with his baby sister. She was in a baby carrier, sitting on a chair. The brother kept leaning in, right up in her face. He would grab the sides of the carrier with his hands and pull in, speaking loudly to his sister, getting nose to nose with her.
I felt great anxiety at this. I guess it is triggering a memory. I felt for the little girl, unable to say that she didn’t like this, unable to get away from him. Again and again he was putting his face right up into hers. Again and again I felt that I should say something. He was so forceful that he was pushing her carrier further back each time.
The parents were there. I’m sure they thought he was just playing with her. I’m sure they didn’t think of the psychological trauma this might be causing. They were chatting with their friends and ignoring their children. They didn’t notice how forceful he was.
Perhaps the daughter enjoyed this. Perhaps I was overreacting. But every time I felt breathless and anxious. Every time I felt that someone should get him to think about how this would look from her perspective. She can’t back away – she’s trapped in her carrier. She can’t tell him no – she is an infant and cannot speak. Sure, she could make a noise to show her disapproval. But my concern is that she was being “taught” that being attacked is normal, that being pushed up against a wall is how she should be treated.
I’d also be concerned if this was a sister doing this to a baby brother. But I feel I’m more sensitive to this particular situation because I feel that I was treated like this. I feel that I was treated as a thing, an object, and not a person.
My brother was not my friend. He was my tormentor. He was my enemy. I don’t understand when people say how wonderful and protective their brothers are, how they can always call them for help and always count on them. It just sounds like a fairy tale.
I’m starting to understand that it isn’t my fault that I had a terrible relationship with my brother. I was taught by my culture and my religion that it was my responsibility to try harder to have a better relationship with him. Codependency comes free with a church membership. I’m starting to understand that he is just a narcissistic jerk, and I had the misfortune of having him as a big brother. I’m grateful that I severed all ties with him.
I wonder what our childhood would have been like if I had been born first?
After a while, I did say something to the boy. I felt like I had to. I asked him to be gentle with his sister. His father whipped around and stared at me. I’m sure he was thinking how dare this stranger tell his children what to do. I just smiled sweetly back. He turned back around to his plateful of food and his ball cap wearing friends.
So much for “It takes a village.”