The Many Roles of Sisterhood

I remember laying in bed with my mother at night praying for a baby sister.  Not a brother.  A sister. Once I got her, I remember laying in bed praying to send her back.

"Please dear Lord take that wretched attention-stealing thing back to where she came from, if I have to share one more toy with her it WILL ruin my life!"

My grandfather used to say, "one of these days you girls are going to kill each other." Luckily for us, we didn't kill each other. Although there was that unfortunate time that I pushed her so hard it knocked her out. The memories of disliking her and sharing the spotlight have long since faded, and now memories of happily giving my sister her time to shine take center stage.

I think it's safe to say, we all have our own experiences with sisterhood. My perspective is as the "big sister" in every sense of the word. Someone who plays the “little sister” role might feel completely different than I, but I hope that we can all relate on the true love that lies between sisters. The kind of love that makes it okay for you to tell her that her outfit is ugly, but the second someone else says it, war has been declared. A true and rare love that cannot be replicated.

My sister and I take on the ever-so-common role of 'rebel' and 'rule follower'. Example - it is clearly marked and reiterated that no sandals are allowed at the barn. So even if I show up in a sundress, I swap my sandals out for sneakers. Now my sister on the other hand, will go out of her way to wear sandals as if she is daring someone to straighten her out. It's the dance that my sister and I have seemed to master over the years of taking care of each other after our parents got divorced.

Immediately after "the divorce" (although it was not nearly as traumatic as the quotations make it sound), my sister and I went our separate ways. It wasn't until we were slightly older and living under the same roof that we realized just how much we would need each other in our futures. I would need her to cover for me when I snuck out, and she would need me to teach her the ways of femininity. It was an unspoken agreement, but an agreement nonetheless.

As I took on the role of the big sister, I also took on the role of mother. My therapist has advised me against wearing that hat, but it's my nature, and I seemingly couldn't help myself. Now this was the trick - finding the balance. Motherhood and sisterhood. I've spent the past few years learning how to balance the two. How to guide my sister to see the "right" moves to make, and how to be there for her when she needs a carton of ice cream and a shoulder to cry on, but just as I finally mastered this two-ring circus, she grew up.

As my sister enters the world of adulthood, relationships, jobs, and life, I am finding that I no longer need to guide her. Wait, did I just say that? She is capable of making the "right" choice all on her own? Yes, truth be told, she has grown right before my eyes into a powerhouse of a woman. She has a boyfriend, who rocks, and even if they don't stay together forever, she's shown that her "man picker" is spot on.  She is graduating High School,, no help from anyone but herself, and she has proven that she is completely capable of defining who she is as a woman.

As I step back and take a look at who she has become, I realize that my role must change. I am no longer the mother-sister I've always been. She's got this now, and she no longer needs my guidance and advice. I have to admit; when I first realized this, it was a very strange feeling. It was like the whole room stopped and I saw her in a completely new light. It was the first time I saw her as a woman, making her own choices, writing her own story.

Occasionally I catch an episode of a reality show sister-squabble. As I watch, I see that one of the sisters is still trying to maintain that "big sister" role. She has yet to place her trust in the "little" sister's decision-making capability. She does not see sisterhood as an equal partnership; instead, she is trying to maintain a dominant role in the relationship. Throughout these past couple of months, I've realized - that type of relationship will never work! Age does not determine the maturity or wisdom of a woman, and I am thankful that I have been able to understand that concept now.

As I write this I'm crying, not because I am sad that I no longer am the “big sister”, but because I am so proud of her. Proud that she has the courage to know the direction she wants her life to go.  Throughout this transition, I've found myself looking up to her, seeking her advice. Although this is something completely new to me, I welcome it.

I see sisterhood completely different than I ever have before; it's no longer the babysitting, worrying, and guiding. Instead, this new sisterhood is about being equals.  Equal women with different perspectives, experiences, and walks of life, yet women with the same family, love for one another, and upbringing. I can see our future phone calls full of laughs, tears, and joy. Sisterhood is no longer about guidance, but instead about growing together as women, sharing our experiences in order to help the other.

I thank god every day for answering my prayers for a little sister, and again for not answering my prayers to take her away.


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