Thursday, September 20, 2007

Twisted Sisters

One of the most complex relationships on the planet is that between an oldest and a youngest child. The vast range of competing emotions, mutually exclusive in other relationships, defies logic and somehow exists between siblings; admiration and disgust, respect and contempt, acceptance and rejection, arrogance and humility, rage and calmness. Beyond just siblings, sisterhood truly exemplifies the ultimate love hate relationship, and the bond I share with my sister NeeNee is no exception.

If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child.

- Linda Sunshine

It all began with NeeNee’s birth and subsequent entry into our home 27 years ago.Her presence immediately shifted the dynamic of the family; clearly obvious was my disappointment in her not being a puppy or a bike. The request to return her for a more desired object was met with laughter, but little did everyone know I was not kidding. My mother’s reluctance to return her meant there was a new boss in town; the screaming, smelly thing in the crib. Through the years, the disdain associated with having a little sister instead of a puppy ebbed and flowed, which I understand is pretty typical in the relationship between sisters. You always love them, but some days you really do not like them very much, like the time NeeNee decided to give me a haircut in my sleep, or pooped in the tub while we were all taking a bath, or shrunk a favorite sweater, or froze my bras, or the time…

Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring - quite often the hard way.
- Pamela Dugdale

Growing up with siblings adds extra dimensions to our personalities and additional sources of education and growth. We learn something different from each person we come into contact, whether that be a family member, a friend, a colleague or a complete stranger, but having siblings provides constant education on human interaction. Having two sisters, I can pinpoint some of the more important lessons I learned from each one. With my middle sister Kristen, I learned the value of sharing; with NeeNee, I learned how to be giving (“Just give it to her, she’s the baby!"). With Kristen, I learned negotiation and collaboration skills; NeeNee taught me how to deal with inequality and favoritism (“You’re older, you should know better. Just give her what she wants!”)Fights with Kristen were physical and required a full on assault, tactics for sisterly combat with NeeNee relied more on intelligence operations focused on sieging possessions and guerilla warfare (“Leave your baby sister alone. Where did you hide her Tigger doll?"). NeeNee taught me the importance of looks in our society (“you don’t want to kill your sister, she’s too cute”), the need for a good sense of humor (“you’ll laugh about her doing this to you in 20 years”), and understanding the value in picking your battles (“are you really going to stay mad at her for something as stupid as this?”).

Our siblings push buttons that cast us in roles we felt sure we had let go of long ago - the baby, the peacekeeper, the caretaker, the avoider.... It doesn't seem to matter how much time has elapsed or how far we've traveled.
- Jane Mersky Leder

The most important lesson I learned from NeeNee came after I left for college. Leaving my family to start school 6 hours from home was very difficult. I considered dropping out and going to school locally, not just because I was homesick, but because I was going to miss out on the lives of my sisters; first dates, zits, homecoming, dances, games, concerts, recitals, report cards and birthdays. I was afraid they would hate me for leaving, upset that they might forget me, and wrought with guilt that my desire to go away to school and away from my family was selfish. While I am still upset at the years I missed, and continue to miss living far away, NeeNee taught me the value of a letter to let a person know you are thinking about them, the need to keep the people you love up to date with the details of your life so they feel included, and the importance of photographs so you feel like you are right there sharing life with them. The most important lesson by far is no matter where you live, how often you see each other or what life throws at you, your sister is always there.

NeeNee, thank you for being my little sister and for the valuable lessons you taught me that helped make me who I am today. I eventually got the bike and the puppy I asked for, but 27 years later I can say I'm glad I got you too! Wishing you all the best as you celebrate your 27th birthday.


NeeNee said...

Thanks for the shout out, especially telling everyone I pooped in the bathtub. Little do they know that was like 3 weeks ago when we all bathed together ;-)

We definetly did learn alot from eachother but the most valuable lesson you and Kristen need to know is "she's the baby that's why". Remember that and you will go far in life

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Okay, to your defense, you were probably 18 months old when you pooped in the bathtub. But you are alot more then 18 months now, and I still hear "leave your baby sister alone" all the time....