Sisterly bonds - a thin line between a love and frustration like no other
I have a sister. A younger sister. I admire her and adore her, and she frustrates me, makes me feel inferior and knows exactly how to wind me up. This article is dedicated to her, on National Sibling Day.
We have a complicated history – treated as twins while being home-schooled living abroad; having to forge our own separate identities as teenagers in an English family living in Germany; and then re-enacting a far less entertaining version of The Parent Trap when our family imploded and our parents separated, with the decision being made, intentionally or unintentionally, that I would move back to the UK with my mother and she would stay in Germany with my father.
Truth be told, while we have our fair share of ups and downs, tears, screaming matches, declarations of ‘you’re dead to me’ and so on, she’s the one person I can always rely on, call at any time of day or night, and who just gets me. (Yes, she gets me so well that she knows exactly what buttons to press to infuriate me, but the good ‘getting me’ works well too.) Given our complicated family history, with each parent claiming to not remember certain events, I know I can rely on her to back me up and recall a specific experience. I also love how she will listen to my rants about my other half but then completely forget them – or appear to – when talking to him. She listens but doesn’t take sides. She is generous, caring, and is my most favourite person in the world – when she laughs anyway.
So, is it always wonderful having a sister? Of course not. Treated as twins growing up we were horribly competitive. It didn’t help that we shared the same hobbies and thus moved in the same friendship circles. I recall Christmas presents to parents and grandparents being of the peace offering kind – a CD of the Cranberries’ No Need To Argue to promise we wouldn’t fight anymore.
Did we always encourage each other with loving positive words? No, if anything we highlighted each other’s faults and weak spots. I still own a white jacket that she told me to buy for a wedding. As we left the shop she whispered she only told me to buy it as she was bored of shopping and that it made me look fat!
But we have a bond that I don’t share with anyone else. They say the sibling relationship is the one that lasts the longest. As sisters we can also share intimate details that I cannot imagine sharing with a brother. As someone who doesn’t believe in the death penalty, the only time I could even envisage taking revenge with my own hands was when I pictured harm coming to my sister. (Naturally that has now changed as a mother with two more little ‘uns in my care.)
So, what am I trying to say? I guess it’s a bit of an ode to my sister. She’s frustrating, beautiful, hilarious, witty, difficult, generous, has a three-day limit to how long we can spend together, but I wouldn’t change her for the world.
All those times we fought like cats and dogs, when we longed for a different sibling, preferred to spend time with friends than with each other, or complained bitterly about how unfairly treated we each were compared to the other… it’s worth it if you hang in there. To every child arguing with their sibling, every parent wondering if their kids will ever get along, sometimes it does work out. It has for us, mostly, and I hope it continues.
In the meantime, I can’t wait to meet my sister’s new dog – Harvey – and often wish she didn’t live in a different country. But there’s a reason why she’s the legal guardian for our children, why I call her when I need cheering up, and why she’s probably crying while reading this. Because we’re siblings.