Before she grew up and stopped seeing everything through innocent kid glasses, she really looked up to me. She followed me around, tried to imitate my tastes, and was everything you’d expect an adorable little sister to be. So what did I do? I made her life miserable.
I got mad when she wanted to get the same toy or same clothes that I had. I refused to let her in my room except at specific times of my choosing. I got frustrated when she wanted to learn to play what I thought of as “my” games, or wanted to play with our cousins (who were around my age) when they came over. And still she admired me, for some unfathomable reason. Still she tried to please me, and still I treated her like crap.
Yeah, I was horrible.
It wasn’t out of jealousy, though. (I’d already passed through that particularly unsavoury phase in her first year of life.) It was because I was terrified that if I let her too close, she would see me as I really was–someone she wouldn’t look up to. I didn’t want to let her see that I was a coward, scared of talking to people I didn’t know. I didn’t want to share with her the stories I made up when playing with my dolls, because I was afraid she’d think them silly or stupid–and by extension, me. I definitely didn’t want her doing anything I did, because she might do it better–which would make me redundant as a big sister.
No, I had to seem perfect… which, ironically, made me downright unbearable instead. Oh, there were days when I was feeling self-confident enough to invite her into my world for a little while, and those were some of the happiest times I can remember. Bouncing on our parents’ bed while they were away, singing silly songs, reading to her at bed time. Small things like that. Then something would happen to threaten that “perfect” image and I’d push her away again. I imagine I seemed rather bipolar–while she believed herself to be too annoying, and tried even harder.
Things did get better as we got older, and I matured, somewhat. But the biggest turning point was when I was ordered by my parents to pick her up one night, at a very inconvenient time. I was gaming with friends, and we were at a crucial point in the dungeon. At their insistence, I had to abandon my team to go fetch my little sister. I was fuming when she got in the car, and she knew it. I found out later that she thought I was furious at her for being an inconvenience. The old me would have said nothing, would have pretended I wasn’t angry. But for whatever reason, I was frank with her that night. I told her that it wasn’t her–no, I was furious at our parents and at the situation itself, because I’d had to leave my friends in the lurch. She understood. And we talked.
It was eye-opening. I could reveal the sheer ugliness of my personality, and she wouldn’t think any less of me. (Granted, she had made it through those terrible years with admiration intact.) I could be at my best or my worst, and she would still respect me as her older sister. I could be vulnerable, and it was okay.
We got along much better when I was able to put my pride aside and admit I was human. Instead of being incomprehensibly aloof, I was relatable, and in return I also got to know the complex, fascinating person that is my sister. Sure, there are times when I’ll say or do things that invoke her wrath, or even her (lighthearted) derision. It can be hard to deal with.
But that’s okay. I have all those lost years to make up for.