Sibling Rivalry: a fight over a brown teddy bear

When I was little, my little brother and I got along well, but there were moments when a fight erupted between us over some small things. One morning when I was four and my brother was one, my mother took us to her workplace to take photocopies of a teaching material. There was nobody else in the copy room, and my mother made us sit at a table by the window while she took the photo copies. My brother and I behaved very well, sitting peacefully, looking outside and playing with hands.

Then one of my mother’s colleagues came in. They started chatting, and after a while, the lady walked over to us, commented how lovely we were, and gave us two little teddy bears – one white bear and one brown bear. She smiled and went back to talk with my mother.

I immediately reached for the brown teddy bear. In my head, a teddy bear was always of brown colour, so I thought the brown one was mine. But then, my brother reached his hand and took the bear away from me.

“You can take this white one,” I said to him, gently replacing the brown bear by the white bear in his hand. “Look, it’s cute, isn’t it?”

My brother, who usually didn’t object my suggestion, wasn’t happy with this arrangement. He reached for the brown bear again and took it away from me. Now, I was upset.

“This one is mine!” I said. “You can take this white one!”

The brown bear travelled between my hand and my brother’s hand multiple times until our movements became more aggressive and our voice escalated. Finally, my brother started to cry, and my mother and her colleague came to us.

“What’s happening?”

“I want to have this brown bear, but he takes it away from me,” I explained, half whining.

“You also want this one?” My mother said to my brother as she handed the brown bear to him. The moment the brown bear landed on his hand, my brother stopped crying.

“Let him hold this until we go home,” said my mother. “Why don’t you take the other one?”

“But I don’t like this one,” I whined. “I like the brown one!”

Behind my mother, her colleague stood with a perplexed face – and I wondered if she was feeling bad for not having brought two brown teddy bears.

“That’s enough,” snapped my mother, looking embarrassed and irritated at my stubbornness. “We are going home now.”

Then she turned and apologized to her colleague.

“I’m so sorry – they sometimes fight over silly things.”

“Oh, that’s normal for siblings!” said the lady, smiling. “They are truly lovely!”

We left the room in a hurry – my mother probably didn’t want us to continue the fight over the teddy bear in front of her colleague.

Once at home, I took the brown bear and handed the white bear to my brother. This time, he didn’t insist on the brown bear, but simply lost interest in the teddy bears altogether, and turned to his other toys. I was still interested in the teddy bears, especially the brown one, so I quietly kept it in my toy box.

Because of the silliness and the intensity of the fight over the brown teddy bear, the memory has stayed with me since.