Today is my little sister’s birthday.
As the older sister our entire life was filled with me authoritatively hitting each milestone before she had a chance to. Becoming an expert in all things “life” and bequeathing that knowledge to my younger sis whether or not she asked for it. Unsurprisingly, she bristled at my bossiness and any wisdom I forced onto her went into one ear and out the other. I was an annoying know-it-all and she was a do-it-her-way sort of gal. It was a sisterly mismatch made of a mother’s worst nightmare.
It really wasn’t until our late 20s until we finally moved past whatever force was keeping us from getting along and discovered the magic of being BFF sisters. That’s not to say that we didn’t ever fight or annoy the crap out of each other, because yes those things still happen. We’re only human after all. It simply meant that we got to this good place in our lives where I stopped trying to be a second mother and talk down to my sister and she suddenly realized that maybe, on occasion, when Mercury is in retrograde, that I was right about certain things and it was okay to listen to my advice.
Fast forward a few years later and long story short, my sister got pregnant. This was a shock to my big sister system for many reasons, but mainly because for the first time in both our lives she was doing something first. This was a path that I had yet to walk down myself and therefore had zero knowledge on it. Yes, you can try and read up on the subject (and believe me, my type A self totally did) but until you experience it yourself it’s hard to empathize, let alone offer any sort of advice to an expectant mother. The big sister-little sister balance of our relationship had dramatically shifted. This major thing was happening to my sister and totally disrupting her life (in the absolute best way possible) and here I was, a spectator, a supporter, but most certainly not an expert in any way, shape, or form.
I was a passenger and my sister was in the driver’s seat. I asked questions. I mentioned things I had read or heard from friends that were pregnant in a half-hearted attempt to be somewhat useful as an older sister. But mostly I listened. I took my childless disposable income straight to Carters and purchased impractical wardrobes for every season for my little nephew. Nine months later our little Leo came bursting into our lives and she became a mother. I became an aunt.
I remember holding my nephew for the first time. Watching my sister deftly handle her son and navigate newborn life with a quiet, confident calm and wondering if that was something that just came naturally to her. A few weeks later I told her that I was pregnant. In a total role reversal, it was I, the older sister, asking my sister about pregnancy. She, the younger sister, providing comforting reassurance that all was well and normal and appropriately ooohing over alien-like sonograms the way only a soon-to-be-aunt can.
Her becoming a mother first totally changed the dynamic of our relationship. It leveled the playing field so to speak. While age-wise, I will always be the “older” sister. A fact I’m sure she’s happy to point out to ease the pain of turning another year older. But in terms of life experience, the field of play is now equal. She was the first to make that drastic leap from one to two kids. Leo will be the first to go to kindergarten and take that huge plunge into the big kid pond. There will be so many other things that I’ll look on to her experience for.
Motherhood can often times feel like a very lonely, solitary thing. Even with your partner next to you. The days are long, the hormones rage, and the kids give you whiplash as they bounce from angels to Tasmanian devils. My sister is my solace and my comfort. Our lives are busy so we may not even find the time to talk even on a weekly basis. But we text. We FaceTime. Each of us doing our signature “hair fluff” upon seeing the other through grainy video as we give small compliments like “Oh, your eyebrows look so good!”. We can text each other those deep, dark thoughts said in a moment of frustration or annoyance knowing there is no long-term judgment. Only agreement, an “I’ve been there”, or the perfect Britney Spears gif.
We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve attempted many a group photo of our beautiful children only to have it usually go comically awry. We hold each other up. We see a good mother in the other. A good that we ourselves can’t usually see. We know each others’ flaws and our differences. We’ve matured to a point where we understand how to navigate the very things that used to be points of contention in our relationship. Or in my sister’s case, she simply says to me when I get that raptor gleam in my eye “I don’t want to talk about anything serious! Let’s just have fun!”
For most of my life, I always thought that being the older sister meant being smarter, stronger, and wiser. But when my little sister had children first, I learned there’s something special that happens to that bond when the older/younger titles are stripped away and you simply become sisters who are also mothers. If you would have asked me in high school, or even when I graduated college, whether my sister and I would be this close, I would have quickly answered no. Aside from our wicked sense of humor, we have completely different personalities. Differences that have translated into very different styles of parenting. Yet here we are now and I can’t imagine being a mother without her by my side. Cookie, I love you and all that you’ve taught this older sister!