Today, on her fourteenth birthday, my little sister has grown up—or rightly, she has been growing up for the last 14 years without my noticing a thing.
I suppose there must be a reason that so many friends, upon seeing a picture of Reshini, exclaim, “oh, she’s old! We thought she was about seven…”
Though I know I am inwardly feeling a gulp of satisfaction at these observations, the rush of tangy sweetness inevitably comes with an unsettling realization: the glass will soon be empty, and the sweet juice of parent-sisterhood gone. Reshini has grown up and it is time that my role in her life grow too.
With my constant insistence that “it is because I care,” I am the one whom she quietly slips by on the way to school just on the off-chance that I should find her clothing objectionable and demand a change. I am the one whom she once expected to wake her up in the morning before school started and to tell her a million things she didn’t care to know. I am the one who bothered her to do her homework and insisted that if she focused just an inch of her talent, she could go further than Inesha and I ever could. I am the one who in all of my “tough love,” insisted that there was no need for her to make mistakes. But I’ve seen the movies too, and they’re not wrong–mistakes are how you learn in life. And, you have to make them in the distinctly one-of-a-kind, you variety.
After fourteen years of being a parent sister, I’ve decided that the irrefutable truth conveyed to us by the stars of the silver screen really ought to be refined a bit.
Yes, everyone should make their own mistakes. But in the case of my little sister, even as she goes about making hers, I don’t believe in a need for her to make the same ones that I did.
Reshini is my younger sister, and I realize that I’ve probably been her parent a bit too long. Growing up, Inesha and I were blessed with one of the aspects of our childhood that I credit with any accomplishments or successes that we may claim to our name today: and that is the hands-off guardianship of my parents. For us, they were there to love, watch over, care for, and advise us, but I will always vividly remember how much freedom we were given to make choices that friends’ parents would agonize over at the kitchen table for hours with their little ones. In my childhood, perhaps the best thing that my parents did for me and Inesha was to step back—and as a result, I made many a mistake. I happily continue to learn from them today.
Though the family structure is a societal construct that may don varying appearances in diverse parts of the world, I have always believed that the sister-sister bond is innate. But yet, I’ve let my desire to protect overtake my role as friend, confidant, and guide. A sister is not after all a parent, no matter how much I see myself start to slip into that role. While I don’t think that the days when Reshini groans as I say “wait, let’s talk about this” will fade, I will make a more concerted effort to make our relationship a conversation and not an interrogation—a give and take rather than a give and worry.
One day, I hope I will have the chance to be a parent, but until then, I have to remind myself of the value of the relationship I already have, and give Reshini her second sister back.
Happy 14th birthday, my little-big one!