I had very much a “love-hate” relationship with my sister, who was 3 years younger. Mostly, I loved to hate her and could be pretty awful to her. I was smarter (book-wise anyway), stronger and older. I could be emotionally manipulative and cruel. I clearly remember one time saying (or possibly just thinking), that I hated her so much I wish I could kill her with a knife (I was around 8 or 9).
Of course as an adult, I can recognize that I was most likely just angry about something, or jealous of some attention she was getting. I didn’t really wish her dead, or wish to cause it myself. Really! It wasn’t till we hit our teens that we melded. I learned that we were more alike than different, and that she was actually a pretty cool kid. Which hurt all the more when she was taken, via cancer, at age 17. I miss my sister, both the person that she was, and would be, as well as the “idea” of a sister. A built-in friend who has known you forever.
In college, less than a year after my sister died, a good friend was baking her sister cookies to send to her for her birthday. A couple of us were hanging out while she baked and I’m sure we all helped a little. We were laughing and talking and enjoying each other’s company. Then she boxed up those freshly baked cookies and started writing her sister’s name and address on the box. I clearly remember watching her with that Sharpie and having the realization that I would never be able to bake cookies for my sister. I got up and left, without a word to my friends, in tears. The grief was overwhelming, and I tear up now, some 26 years later, thinking about it.
In deciding to become a parent to two children, a huge motivator for me was to provide my kids (who are both girls) with a sister. I know, first hand, how awful sisters can be to each other. I also know that not all sisters become friends as adults. But I wanted to give them that chance.
Krystal and Belle became sisters almost three years ago, when Krystal was 5 and Belle was 2. They had very different lives before that time, and we all went through a big transition that first year. My two daughters have very different personalities, and of course because of their ages, they are at different developmental stages. They are very different, but they are very much like my sister and me.
Krystal can be manipulative and cruel. She’s a lot like I was to my sister at that age. She thinks of herself as a second mother at times, and I’ve cringed hearing my words coming out of her mouth more than once.
Belle is an instigator. She is a much stronger personality than my sister was. She knows how to push Krystal’s buttons, and pushes with alacrity. Krystal has not yet learned the art of ignoring. I tell her all the time that when she reacts, she gives Belle the satisfaction of knowing she got to her. Someday…
Last night during the bedtime routine I was in one bathroom doing my thing, telling the girls who kept shadowing me to: go brush your teeth, brush your hair, put on your PJ’s, pick out your book, leave the dog alone. It was a revolving door with one kid passing the other to and from where I was and having to give explicit directions to do the things we do every single night.
At one point they were both off doing what they were supposed to do, presumably, and I was alone. Ah, bliss. For a minute, until Belle came in.
Belle: Mom, Krystal is hogging the sink and I can’t brush my teeth!
Me: Hmmmmm (trying not to engage)
Belle [running back to the bathroom]: Krystal, Mom says “Hmmmm!” That means you need to let me brush!
Or something else that happens quite frequently is that Krystal will find me to say that Belle has done something naughty. Perhaps she’s pulled the dog’s tail, scribbled on her homework, broken something, gotten into a forbidden item, or just been annoying to Krystal in some way. She will end her tattling session with “Mom, you need to talk to her.”
Managing the relationship between my girls is the second most stressful part of parenting them (the first is another post altogether – more news next week). It is also something I did not adequately prepare for. I thought parenting two children would be difficult logistically – getting two kids ready for school in the morning, finding activities that we all enjoy, etc). While there are challenges in that area, especially as the only adult in the home, I have found them to be mostly workable (no small thanks to a flexible work situation). It’s their relationship that requires constant management.
My kids are still young, and they are different. But I still think I did the right thing in giving them each other. Time will tell.