If you have young siblings, mainly including but not limited to those between the ages of 2 and 8, you understand how easy it is to snap. Siblings with large age gaps, like myself (almost 20 years old) and my sister (five years old), know this especially well. When you are at such different stages of life, it can be easy to forget how young children act and how it’s completely normal for them to not listen, to scream, to be selfish, and to be downright stupid sometimes. It’s just a result of their age, of them having less experience with the world. And it can be absolute hell for us. Yes, that adorable little girl below can truly raise hell.
If there is a day where I have to watch Vivian while my parents are at work, there is bound to be one or two points during those several hours in which Vivian and I are completely and utterly done with each other. Most of the time she’s content to watch cartoons, or play an imagination-fueled game, or craft… but sometimes she wants to do things that would be dangerous, or she gets too loud, or she is disrespectful. And then I’m the bad guy when I say no! After a few hours of tirelessly pretending to be a robber she’s arrested, or a foe in a Spiderman web-slinging battle, or even an ironically naughty child during a game of “House,” I do become a bad guy. I will snap. Sometimes, I do for no reason at all other than that her voice was getting a little louder than I could tolerate, or that I was just bored of being fake arrested over the same crime my daft character apparently kept committing!
But every single time I snap at her with a “Vivian, that’s enough!” or “Vivian, keep it down!” with a voice raised a decibel higher than usual, I feel a twinge of remorse. She’s just acting like every other kid her age. She’s really not a bad kid (most of the time). I think back to how I was, or how people told me I was, when I was young. All of us were bad listeners, we screamed, we were selfish, and we were downright stupid sometimes. That’s all part of the early stages of growing up. Even the times when you just think to yourself, "My god, what would make you think that was a good idea?!"
What are the consequences of snapping at her? What happens if I discourage her too often from being a wild child? I can already spot changes every so often. It may be that she tones down positive sides of her personality. I snap at her after she’s sung the chorus to “Stressed Out” for the last hour straight, and she begins to feel less confident in singing her tiny heart out. I snap at her after she’s acted like a dedicated cop arresting the thief version of myself for the fifteenth time and she becomes less interested in imagining what cool jobs she wants to do when she grows up. I snap at her after she’s made a complete mess of the living room and she begins to restrict the way she expresses her own messy self. And aren't all of us still pretty messy?
The little things do add up from early childhood, and we must all remember how large an impact us older siblings have on our younger ones. It’s so easy to get caught up in the ordinary schedule of our lives and to snap when things go outside the lines, but that’s where little kids live – outside the lines. It’s how they try new things, dream, and discover themselves in this world, before they fall into their own set of lines. So this is a reminder to be kinder (kids love rhymes) to our young siblings. The more they remember us older one letting them play, and laugh, and be stupid, the better off they are to let others do the same and to be confident in themselves. Next time you feel the urge to snap at them, think about how much whatever they’re doing truly matters.