From small squabbles to full-blown battles, wars between siblings have always been a ritual course for brothers and sisters living together. If you ask separately about who has it the hardest, the question will most likely start another bloodbath. However, when it comes to responsibility in the family, after the parents, it all comes down to the eldest to be a role model for the younger sibling(s), excel in all academic subjects and meet other expectations his/her parents have in mind.
I am 3 years, 6 months older than Debbie, my younger sister, and I have been getting the whole first-born daughter routine all my life. Even from a very young age, I was expected to take care of my sister at all times. I recall fighting viciously with my sister all the time, and every time we ended up in a fight, our parents would give me the evil eye for being older and not being responsible enough to ignore my baby sister’s antics.
As the years passed, I ended up in charge of all of her homework, all her household chores’ basically everything Debbie was required to do. For example, every art assignment she had, from kindergarten on, all went through me. At first, she would give a helpless “can-you-help-me” cry; 10 minutes later I was alone in my room with paint, brushes, water and a huge blank sheet on which I would paint my sister’s vision. This continued as Debbie went on to elementary school and then junior high. Then, finally, she went away to live in the dorm at her high school and I was free from all our fights and from her shifting her burdens over to me.
When we lived together, we were always in each other’s faces and that was the reason for our constant fights. However, when the physical distance between us grew, we became absorbed in our own lives and rarely talked. I graduated from high school, went on to university and was overwhelmed by my life and lost interest in Debbie’s. Entering university gave me great freedom, but it also handed me cold and heavy responsibilities that I had no excuse not to uphold.
And so days, then years, went on until, one evening, I received a call from my mother saying that I “had to” help my sister with her university applications. I did not digest this news well. My nightmarish past came back to haunt me in a moment. But my hesitation was quickly caught by my mother, and she started complaining about how selfish I was and how she had helped me when I went to university. This was all true, but whenever my sister did something that I had done earlier, I felt people made a bigger fuss over it because she was “too young” to take care of herself. This angered me, and during that initial phone call, I became infuriated and the conversation ended with both parties red-faced and huffing.
Guilt came over me like an itch from a phantom limb. I got to thinking that night about how being responsible for my younger sister had always been a part of my resentment towards my parents. However, I realized that the reason my sister relied on me was because I had let her. No matter how grouchy I was, I was always there for Debbie because I chose to be. And because I let her give me her own responsibilities, I was, in turn, responsible for her dependent personality. My burdens came because of the choices I made and this meant I chose through all my actions, to be Debbie’s older sister.
After a night made sleepless by this small epiphany, I made an apologetic phone call to my mother and agreed to help Debbie. During the weeks that passed, I followed my sister to her interviews and coached her on all the details to wooing universities and their professors and most of all, on how to be the best she could. And so she was. Along with my sister’s miraculous school acceptance, I felt I had found Debbie again. I discovered she had developed into a unique person and I knew inside I could go through 18 years’ worth of chores and assignments again.
My sister and I are living together again next year. I know there will be times when we will hate each other’s guts right up to the point of murder, but, for now, I would like to bask in our newfound friendship. With great power comes great responsibility, but with the latter also comes the respect and faith of those you take care of. Debbie trusts me enough again to probably ask me for help. But this time, I’ll be taking responsibility to a higher levelㅡand help her to stand on her own two feet.