Thursday, October 10, 2013

Your Nearest and Dearest

The Nanny, Pilot Episode: 

Fran: You know, you should be nicer to your sister. 

Brighton (snarkily): Why? Because "We're a family"? 

Fran: That's right. And someday your father's going to be old and sick. And you're going to want him to live with her

My parents never tolerated any sort of violence or verbal abuse between us siblings. The only time we managed to roughhouse was during the one bare hour the folks would have a lie-down on Shabbos afternoon. We had to do it quietly, though; we whispered as we wrestled. "Get off me!" "What did you call me?" "Oooooooow!" All sotto voce

After spending years listening to various shiurim by speakers such as Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, I noticed that they focused more on one's relationship with family rather than the rest of the world. They constantly say, "Your spouse. Your parents. Your children." 

It slowly hit me. 

My niece has been rather mock-ulatory lately. "You were all like—," mimicking exactly what someone did. 

"Dear," I began, "we don't make fun." 

"I don't make fun of anyone! I never make fun of my friends, just my family!" 


"Sweetness, you only make fun of your family because you know you can. They aren't going anywhere, so they have to put up with it. If you made fun of your friends, why would they bother being your friends anymore? Of course you don't make fun of them!" 

Well, she wasn't happy to hear that

As Jews, we sometimes like to think that we are impervious to our surrounding culture. After all, we are technically a middle-eastern nation that got a little lost, right? We were just transplanted, like some exotic fruit tree. But the soil and nutrients make its way into the roots, adding its own influence, altering our flavor and texture. 

American society holds family very casually. Parents are "supposed" to be disrespected, siblings are "supposed" to be teased painfully, children are "supposed" to be undersupervised.
"Oh, let the kids work it out," parents say, as they casually turn a blind eye to murder occurring under their roofs, only defending their offspring if a classmate is doing damage. Anahad O'Connor reports that bullying between siblings can have a great detrimental consequences.  
While normal rivalries with siblings can encourage healthy competition, the line between healthy relations and abuse is crossed when one child is consistently the victim of another and the aggression is intended to cause harm and humiliation, said John V. Caffaro, a clinical psychologist and the author of “Sibling Abuse Trauma.” Parents who fail to intervene, play favorites or give their children labels that sow divisions — like “the smart one” and “the athlete” — can inadvertently encourage conflict.
Nationwide, sibling violence is by far the most common form of family violence, occurring four to five times as frequently as spousal or parental child abuse, Dr. Caffaro said. According to some studies, nearly half of all children have been punched, kicked or bitten by a sibling, and roughly 15 percent have been repeatedly attacked. But even the most severe incidents are underreported because families are loath to acknowledge them, dismissing slaps and punches as horseplay and bullying as boys just being boys, he said.
“Our society tends to minimize child-on-child violence in general,” he added. “We have these ideas that if you’re hurt by a child it’s less injurious than if you’re hurt by an adult, but the data don’t support that.”
Verbal abuse is also bullying, like name calling and threats. 
“Parents at times might be thinking that their kids can fight it out or that a little bit of victimization might not be so bad,” she said. “But these findings suggest that the threshold is pretty low. It’s not just the rough stuff you have to keep an eye out for.”
When Rabbi Hillel said, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary," he meant siblings too.
As Jews, we cherish every soul, and to be aware of their sensitivities. Yes, even my really annoying brother who sometimes just makes me want to—deep breath. He gets the One Foot Treatment (OFT), too. 

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