Wooff asks: We all have sibling problems. But I just realized, I’m an ass to my sister. She can be very unreasonable but I think she at least deserves the respect. I’m nice to her at times but I get super mad at her when she touches me. I don’t like being touched at all. How do I become nicer to my sister? How do I bring patience in me? How do I become a good sibling?
Hi Wooff –
I was born in a litter of… well I don’t remember exactly because we were separated soon after, but my memory says there were about thirty-seven of us. From the moment I was born, all I remember is struggles. Struggling to get to feed at Mommy’s tummy, struggling to sleep comfortably on top of my brother who kept annoyingly kicking and whining, and especially lots of struggling to be the best fighter (and guess what – I was!). At that time, that was the relationship I had with them. They were my pillows, my playmates, and my competitors. Not much else.
Now if I met up with those siblings today, once we’d sniffed and growled and eventually figured out who each other was, I think we’d become great pals. We’d play together, we’d sniff around together, we’d tackle our humans together, we might even sleep together on cold nights (though not quite on top of each other like before!).
The difference is that we’ve matured. Each of us. We’ve grown from the perfect puppies we once were into complex, powerful, experienced dogs.
Now if you ask our mother, she’ll tell you that her life would have been a LOT easier if we’d done that maturing a bit more quickly. Say, in our first couple of weeks. But since our brains weren’t so developed, we did all sort of immature, bratty, mean behaviors to each other (and yes, again, I was the Champion of those behaviors!), and she had to spend her time forcing us to act mature. You know, I was supposed to not bite my sister’s ear when she was asleep, and not walk across the street alone, and not yowl at the moon at 2:30 in the morning… Mommy made me completely boring!
The reason I’m telling you all this, Wooff, is that, just as I matured, you are maturing too. And there’s a big shift between the time we obey our parents’ rule not to abuse our siblings, and the time we actually start to CARE about our siblings. To see them as equals, as beings deserving of respect and kindness. To even begin to actually appreciate and love them.
You’re a very smart person, as I’ve seen in your amazing letters. You don’t need a doggy to tell you how to be nice to your sister. All you’ve needed is to reach the level where you actually want to be nice to her. Where you start to care about how she feels. To consider her well-being something that is important to you.
And you’re there.
So let’s take this issue of touching. Now when I was a puppy, if my sister had annoyed me by touching me, I’d bite her on the butt, hard. And enjoy it. And my mother would have had to stop me from doing it. But when I got a bit older, if another dog, or maybe a human, had annoyed me by touching me, I’d have acted differently. Maybe just walked away from them, or even allowed them to do it for just a bit, to satisfy them, and then gotten them to do something else.
Then, a day would come when I would do that same thing for that sister.
And you’re there.
All you need to do, my dear friend, is to treat her the same way you’d treat anyone else. Your brain is starting to look at her as an individual, instead of as just “that brat who ruined my life and took my parents’ attention and wrecked my favorite toy!” So do what it says.
This does not mean you’ll never get angry at her again. Hey, I get angry at Handsome, and there’s no one in the world I love or look up to more.
But you’ll treat her differently than before. Because you’re not the same person you were before. You’re more mature, you’re more complex, you’re becoming an adult.
I’ll bet you were a wonderful puppy, Wooff. But today, you’re becoming an even more wonderful dog.
Welcome to the club!