One afternoon, my older sister and I were fighting in our shared bedroom. I had taunted my sister – maybe taking one of her toys, calling her a name, or poking her in the side — as I often did, and she began shouting out, “I’m going to hit you! I’m going to hit you!”
I backed out of the bedroom and moved into the hallway above the stairs. As an 8-year-old, I was not particularly afraid of my 10-year-old sister, but I still did not want to get hit. Meanwhile, my sister kept shouting, “I’m going to hit you! I’m going to hit you! I’m going to hit you!”
Then, I heard my father, the great defender, the peacemaker, call from downstairs. In exasperation, he shouted, “Well, hit her, for God’s sake!”
Of course, I was surprised that my dad, who usually broke up our fights, would shout such a thing. He must have been tired of my constant misbehavior, and he knew that my sister would not really hurt me. He was probably irritated by my sister’s empty threats too. She was a tattletale, and part of her shouting was probably to get my parents’ attention, so that they would come and punish me. Anyway, at the time, I was a bit stunned by my father’s words, “Well, hit her, for God’s sake!” but now I am amused.
Did my sister hit me? I don’t recall on that occasion. We had plenty of arguments and occasional fights, but the physical part was never a big deal…except for once.
Again, my sister and I were in our room. I think she was about 9 years old and I was 7. During some fight, I hit her hard on the back and knocked the wind out of her. I can still see her doubled over, trying to get air. As she momentarily struggled for breath, we both worried, but soon she was fine. I felt terrible about having actually hurt her.
Years later, my sister and I discussed the event. Here is the surprising part: My sister remembers the story exactly the opposite way, as if she knocked the wind out of me. Both of us are adamant that we remember it correctly. Isn’t memory strange? One of us revised the story to become the powerful person in it and not the victim, and then remembered only the revision. If I look at it logically, I see that my sister was two years older than I and she probably had more strength to knock the wind out of me. However, we were both children, and slamming someone in the wrong spot, I could have hurt her instead. It doesn’t matter anymore what actually happened. Neither of us wanted it to happen again, and it never did. It did teach me a lesson about memory, though – how powerful, convincing, and inaccurate it can be.
I’m glad to say that as I grew up, I stopped trying to get attention by being nasty. Instead, I strive to be kind and compassionate. My sister and I are very close friends now. I think that is one of the great things about my siblings (a brother and sister): I made thousands of mistakes around them as I grew up, and they had to stick by me, thanks to the insistence of my parents. In the long run, they grew to love me despite all the trouble I caused. I love them as well. We have no need to argue or fight, and our relationship is a supportive, peaceful one now – quite a contrast to the relationship we had as children.