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Bringing up Ben

Oliva Sielaff


(November) Little brothers - most of us have one. If you don't, count yourself lucky. I understand that some little brothers can be well behaved, but the majority of them have an infamous reputation. They are especially known for bugging their older siblings!

My little brother Benjamin is twelve years old and he loves to annoy me. I haven't quite figured out why, but he does. I think it's embedded in little brothers' minds to exasperate their older sisters whenever possible. Even as I'm writing this article I have to hide in my room so Ben can't bother me.

Some days are worse than others. One day Ben and I can get along perfectly well. We can go without wringing each other's necks or disputing over "I'm smarter than you". Other days the littlest things can make it miserable for us to be in the same house together. There was one day in particular a few weeks ago when Ben was really getting on my nerves. He and I were at a business event with my mom all day where we either had to keep quiet and occupy ourselves or help our mom. After about two hours, and two cups of hot chocolate, Ben was at the peak of being very hyper and very annoying. He was no help to my mom and he was irritating me.

It started with us bickering back and forth, and how Ben was being way too hyper for the environment we were in - the hot chocolate always helps with giving him more energy than he needs. I complained how disrupting Ben was being and I told him to leave mealone and go outside to release some of his energy. Well, if you know little brothers, "Leave me alone!" is the wrong thing to say. This was Ben's cue to keep aggravating me.

He carried on by nitpicking the most insignificant things about me. This is one of his favorite things to do. He would say, "Your clothes are weird!" or "Your face is funny!" Then he badgered me with countless inane questions. If I ignored him, he started to copycat everything little thing I said or did. Finally, he resorted to making up things I didn't do and narrating it to my mom. I had had enough! I couldn't stand it any longer and I really didn't want to lose my temper in public, so I decided to try and distract him from bothering me. I suggested we play a board game.

After going through the process of what games were available, which was more fun, which one had all the pieces, which one was more educational (that was my idea), we eventually opted for Scrabble. This came with a little resistance from Ben because he is dyslexic and Spelling isn't his favorite subject. But I convinced Ben that it was good for him to think of and learn how to spell different words. Ben started the game with the word 'Nascar', one of his favorite "sports", while I tried to think of an intelligent or long word to rack up some points.

The game ensued with very random words I had expected from Ben who loves hunting, nature, and anything boyish. He chose 'elk', 'beer', and 'dad', while I got creative with 'jigsaw' and 'quiet' (it was the only word I could spell with a 'q')! There were a few times we complained about the score and how many points we got, and whether the spelling of a word was correct. However, we got along and helped each other to think of some crazy words. By the end of the game we were both laughing hysterically over silly words and enjoying each other's company, for a change, so much so that we played three more rounds of Scrabble.

To someone who gets along pretty well with their younger sibling this probably seems like a trivial game of Scrabble, but to admit the truth, Ben and I argue more than is needed. So for us to actually have gotten through a game without dictating the rules, giving up, or leaving each other ill tempered the way we had started, was an important step in learning how to get along with each other. I realized that feeding the friction by bickering and quarreling doesn't help. In the end, we disputed over who won the game and realized it didn't really matter. We learned that arguing is pointless and just plain wastes time, while instead we could be having fun and, possibly, come to like each other more. I guess I am pretty lucky to have Ben as my little brother after all!

Read other articles by Olivia Sielaff