Having just found out I’m due to have another girl this December, I’ve been thinking a lot about sisters. Elated to have two daughters, my husband and I are already imagining the sweet sisterly giggles of our future, the inevitable stubborn disagreements, and the unquestionable bond the girls will share for a lifetime. My daughter in turn, couldn’t be happier. She’s already taken on the role of big sister quite seriously—talking and singing to my stomach and “mothering” any other baby she sees—and her sweet, nurturing heart brings me pure joy.
However, I can’t help but feel trepidation when a well-intentioned person says, “every girl needs a sister.”
Needs a sister.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
The thing is, I also have a sister and my biggest hope for my daughters is that they do not end up like me and mine. For what feels like my entire life, my relationship with my sister has been a rollercoaster of friendship and animosity, generosity and pettiness. We currently are not speaking to one another (okay, in truth, she is hardly speaking to anyone in the family, but it has been made a specific point not to talk to me) and it hurts.
To say this leaves me with a painful hole in my heart would be an understatement. To go from sharing a womb to sharing nothing is a big leap and to get out every feeling I’ve felt in the last two years about it would take at least one uninterrupted week, so I’ll do my best to summarize.
Imagine telling someone over the phone you love them, but not hearing it back. Imagine your mirror image dying their hair since high school and beyond due to their desire for wanting to be anything but your mirror image. Her hyper-competitiveness (it’s just Scrabble for goodness sake) and the careful, biting remarks designed to sound like compliments (Yes—those “baby-making” hips of mine will certainly come in handy when I want a family. Thanks for pointing it out) were a reminder that I was meant to feel inferior. I know this all says more about her own self-esteem than mine, but I also understood that at some undetermined point in our lives it’d been decided I was no longer just an ally. I’d become a rival.
After some careful conversations and emotional maturity, the tension seemed to ease and it felt as though we’d finally found a good, safe place. I consider the last years of our 20s the best of our adult lives and then, with no warning, the entire relationship came to a halt. I considered us best friends one moment and then twenty minutes later it was over.
This separation of sisters has weighed on me for almost two years but the ironic thing is, it wasn’t until we became estranged did I realize how many hits to my self-esteem I’ve experienced in my life because of my need to be loved by her. It became clear to me as each apology I offered for my own role in the separation proved to be not enough. I’ve tried emails when my phone calls were hung up on, holiday cards and gifts on birthdays—my words were twisted around and ridiculed, and the gifts were rejected. One year ago, frustrated and out of options, I passed the responsibility to her. A simple “call me when you’re ready” and so far, she hasn’t been ready. I initiated the single text exchange we’ve had since. It felt as strained and unnatural as texting a coworker you barely know, whose number you’re not sure you have quite right, and would they mind covering your shift please? At least there was contact.
Though as I said, with this separation comes realization. Despite the heartache that comes with the loss of connection I’ve since felt lighter, freer, and more confident in myself. The tumultuous relationship I share with my sister will not be what my daughters see—they will see a tight circle of friends and family who lift my spirits, encourage me to grow, and support decisions I make. They will also watch as I reciprocate. I will do my best to cultivate friendship between my two girls by giving them the example of what healthy, loving connections look like.
None of this is to say that life was all bad with my sister. Our current estrangement is a small imperfect piece to an imperfect story. I have an entire lifetime of good memories: silly inside jokes, the day she stood as maid-of-honor at my wedding, and the encouragement only a sister can give. It’s these joyful memories that give me hope and enthusiasm about the future relationship between my daughter and her as-of-yet unborn sister. There will be squabbling between them, but I’m confident there will be an overflowing abundance of love, too.
As for my own sister, I’ll keep waiting until she’s ready. I’ll be here.