I am the youngest of three children. My brother is 5.5 years older than me; my sister 3 years older.
Growing up, my brother tolerated me as best he could. Occasionally he’d roughhouse or play things like board games or Star Wars Lego with me, but mostly he did his best to keep me away from him and his friends (which wasn’t always easy!).
But my sister? She was my hero. I have very few memories of playing with my parents, but my sister and I were inseparable. She taught me to read and to draw. We wrote stories together and did origami and music and dancing.
She was my BFF in a way nobody else was. Friends and I would always drift apart (I was kind of intense and weird in primary school and I think I burned friends out pretty fast), but my sister and I had to stick it out. We would fight (and how!) and sometimes stay mad for a while, but eventually we simply had to get over it and move on. There was no other choice.
I idolised her and wanted to do EVERYTHING she did. I followed her to piano lessons, and horse riding lessons (I was never even into them much, but she was obsessed and I wanted to do what she was doing), and ballet lessons. I listened to the same music and read the same books and loved the same shows.
Then one day she hit puberty.
Everything changed. She didn’t want me bothering her and her friends anymore. She spent a lot of time alone in her room. She yelled at me to stop copying her all the time.
I was gutted. I just didn’t understand what had changed and I got resentful and angry.
If it so happened that I liked something she also liked I would lose my shit if anyone suggested I was “just copying her.” I took every opportunity to be snarky and sullen and tried to get cousins to play with me and ignore her at family get-togethers.
Basically I was an enormous bitch – who only got bitchier once I hit puberty.
Eventually we both became adults. She moved to Perth with her partner and I stayed in Sydney. We never got back to being as close as we were as kids, but bridges were mended.
One New Year’s, many years later, we had a drunken deep-and-meaningful and I finally found out exactly what she was going through at the time.
Relentless, soul-destroying bullying.
Even now, the thought of how much I compounded her issues by being such a bitch at home makes my eyes burn with shame (she says she never felt victimised by me, but I know the thoughts I was having about her at the time. There is no comfort there).
She matured very young, at 11yo, and was the first girl in her year to wear a bra. She was also mildly overweight and a nerd. She developed disordered eating patterns that did nothing to help (turns out she has PCOS) and could not wait for me to join her at high school because then hopefully the girls who viciously abused her at the bus stop might finally leave her alone.
I genuinely had no idea how bad it was and still get angry at the level of secrecy and shame that surrounded her experiences.
Now I look at my two girls and cherish the love they share. Miss 4 completely adores her almost-8yo sister (her first word was her sister’s name ❤️) and the feeling so far is mutual – although my Miss 7 does need personal space more frequently than her sister would like.
I must confess, I struggle with that. I cannot bear to see my little one so devastated by “rejection” and my gut reaction is to try to force Miss 7 to keep playing.
Thankfully I manage to get over that. Most of the time.
For now, my older daughter (mostly) enjoys having a little shadow following her around and copying everything she does. There is nothing quite so satisfying as hearing them playing in another room, making each other laugh so hard their tummies hurt. It triggers so many wonderful memories and emotions that I can’t help but laugh along too.
I hope that connection lasts forever, but if it wavers, I hope I can help them understand each other and keep communication open.
As for me and my sister, we have one of those connections that we both know is rock solid even though we rarely talk. Whenever we’re together we click immediately and we both know we’re there for each other if ever the shit hits the fan. Even though we’re a whole continent apart.
You know what? I’m cool with people thinking I’m following in her footsteps now. There are far worse people in the world to be accused of copying.
Inspired by the Daily Prompt