These aren’t the words a mother dreams of hearing, yet I venture to say they’re heard in many homes. Whenever they’re voiced in mine, my heart breaks in two.
My girls love each other, and I catch them all the time having Hallmark moments, moments where they cackle and grin simultaneously, making their faces mirror images…moments where they dance around the house acting like nuts and singing their favorite songs…moments where they whisper in quiet corners while glancing up to make sure I can’t hear.
In these moments, I have hope. I see a foreshadowing of the underlying bonds that will cement later in life. I remember why I have four kids, because what they give each other – the magical world of a shared childhood – is more powerful than anything I can offer.
I want my kids to be close to me, but equally important to me is for them to be close with each other. That’s why it hurts me when they fight and insult each other like they’d never insult a friend. That’s why I lose it when they pinch, kick, scream, and pull hair. My kids are great at practicing kindness outside the home, but inside the home their kindness needs work. Inside the home is where guards come down, gloves come off, and dark sides show.
I know this is all perfectly normal. I grew up with three sisters and trust me, we got brutal. We yelled and shook the Richter scale. But today, it’s water under the bridge. We love each other and laugh about it. In some weird, twisted way I’m glad for those crazy fights, because without them our past would be boring. Conflict is the genesis of any great story, and maybe that’s what makes the sister story so interesting, because the conflict that occurs in spades keeps the plot juicy.
In any case, I want my girls to appreciate each other. I want them to realize how lucky they are to have three sisters, three security blankets to carry through life. Only their sisters can understand what it’s like having me as a mother and Harry as a father. Only their sisters know the behind-the-scenes dynamics shaping these formative years. Only their sisters have the full scoop on them, beginning at birth. Only their sisters can bridge them to the past and the memories they’ve created together – memories they’ll want to revisit the rest again and again in life.
But for now, the perks of sisterhood fly over my daughters’ heads. They can’t think about their sisters being their future best friends because their sisters are too annoying. They’re stealing clothes from their closet, tattling, and cutting into the attention they want. Having a big family requires some sacrifices, and these sacrifices don’t always sit well with my girls. But rather than dwell on what I may be depriving them of, I focus on what I’m building for the future. I remember how the real pay-off of sisterhood comes later in life, when they’re not living under the same roof.
What, exactly, is a sister? There are a thousand answers, but personally I’d say a sister is someone who:
*Considers trading you for the neighbor’s dog after you’re born, then changes her mind just before the deal is done;
*Lets you hang with her friends at recess because you’re wandering around alone, then ignores you back at home;
*Gets so bored at home she inevitably plays with you, engaging in dance routines and make-believe;
*Prepares you for cheer try-outs, getting your toe-touch right;
*Notices how grumpy you are three weeks after you lose the class election and tells you to get over it;
*Teaches you to use dangerous tools of the trade, like eyelash curlers and hot rollers;
*Tells you your jeans are crawling up your butt, and that brown isn’t your color;
*Buys the same dress you bought from your favorite store;
*Gets nicer once she goes off to college, which makes you nicer in return;
*Rallies the troops when you go through Rush so you have no doubt her sorority wants you;
*Continues to get a little nicer each year;
*Starts calling just to chat and sharing secrets you have to promise not to tell Mom and Dad;
*Shops with your boyfriend to pick out your birthday present;
*Counsels your boyfriend when he’s confused and can’t understand you, offering advice on what to do;
*Gives her stamp of approval when you finally find THE ONE;
*Helps you pick out your wedding dress and takes her duties as maid of honor very seriously;
*Squeals when you tell her you’re pregnant, promising not to breathe a word;
*Hosts your baby shower, and cries when your child is born;
*Calls you before she and her husband take a trip, asking that should something happen to them, would you and your husband would be legal guardians of their child? In that moment you know your sister loves you, and with tears in your eyes you say, “Yes,” and forgive every injustice of the past;
*Helps you survive the monotonous years of motherhood, coming over when you’re down to offer moral support;
*Agrees to be your emergency contact, dropping everything when there actually is an emergency;
*Gives you peace of mind because you know that should you die young, there’s a woman on this planet who knows how you’d want your children raised and would move mountains to continue what you started.
Sister relationships aren’t all Hallmark moments. But what makes sisters great is the commitment that comes from being family and the intuition of two women who can read each other’s minds. A sister knows what her sister needs. Sometimes it’s encouragement. Sometimes it’s wisdom. Sometimes it’s a helping hand, a loving touch, or a hard truth no one else will say.
In time my four daughters will realize the gift they’ve been given. They’ll see these early years as initiation into a club with deep, mystical bonds. Being a club member myself, I know what’s ahead, and that’s fun. I’m in on the secret that awaits them, a secret that reminds me not to stress when they act like savages because their relationships aren’t doomed. Even at their worst there’s hope. Even at their worst there’s love.
I’m a better person because of my siblings, and I pray one day my daughters will say the same. I pray they’ll see how the first females in their life taught them everything they need to know about friendship, loyalty, conflict resolution, and forgiveness.
Most of all, I hope they find in each other kindred spirits who give them courage to be who they are and a shortcut home when life is too much and they need a reminder of how loved and cherished they truly are.
Thanks for reading this article today. If you found the message helpful, please share it through social media.
Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. The newest one, Liked, is getting a fantastic response as a unique resource for girls of the digital age, and along with the bestselling 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s being used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.
Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!
Posted by Kari on September 9, 2013