Tonight I realized that my baby sister knows more about me than I do.
She called me tonight after getting into it with our parents. It’s not an irregular occurrence, that’s for sure.
She’s 14 and in high school. When I was 14, it was the beginning of trying to get the hell out of there. You see, my parents love us. But they both have horrible tempers. What they don’t realize is that they armed my sister and I with horrible tempers of our own. One of those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ situations.
But when it’s all you’ve ever known, how do you know what else to do? And when you’re being punished for acting the only way you’ve been taught, where do you go? Who can you talk to?
What struck me about tonight, was when I told my sister that she had to try to focus on the positive things our parents provide us. There are good things about this family too, I said. Sometimes they’re harder to see. Now that I’ve had a few years of distance, it’s easier for me to appreciate them. Plus, I added, you’re smarter than I was as a teenager.
I was caught up with being the cool kid. She’s not. She has a strong sense of self, something I strongly admire in her, especially at 14.
But also, I thought she would be better at handling the daunting task that is living with our parents through your tumultuous teens. I couldn’t deal with it, I told her. A big factor in that was because I had no one to talk to.
Is that why you always had boyfriends? she asked me.
I was silent for a moment, in surprise. She had picked up right away onto something that had taken me years to figure out. Several therapists could not get to the bottom of this with me.
As a teen, and pretty much up until about a year ago, I had been a serial monogamist, as I labelled myself. I bookended my longterm relationships from age 15 through 21. In my high school years, I leaned heavily on my boyfriend(s) for emotional support. I was completely dependent on them. In my mind, it was what love looked like. In hindsight, looking to them for cues on who I should and shouldn’t be completely erased me as a person.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to correct that course over the past year and a half, but it hasn’t been easy.
But all of this to say, I am currently feeling just so much gratitude towards my sister. We have a different relationship than most sisters, what with being born eight years apart, almost to the day.
Regardless of age gaps, the beautiful thing about your siblings is you can understand each other in ways that no one else really can. You have shared history; you came from the same place having seen the absolute worst of each other along the way. If you can still love each other after that, you can become one of the strongest teams there ever was.