Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Unseen truths and harsh realizations

There are moments in your life that define your relationships in the future. There are times when an unseen truth is revealed that you have never knew existed at all. This was such a time for me, and it is time now for me to share it.

To tell this story, I have to look back briefly and give you a little history. I grew up most of my childhood an only child. When I was seven, my Mom had some surprise news for me that she was excited to share. There would be a new baby in our house. A baby brother or sister for me to play with and wouldn't that be wonderful?

Now, most kids would love to get this sort of news. My son was five when he finally got a baby sister and he was elated. But, the seven-year-old me was not happy. In fact, as we drove through our small town and my Mom shared her news, I told her, "STOP THE CAR! I want to get out RIGHT NOW!"

I would love to go back and ask her now how that must have felt. Her mouth dropped and I know she didn't expect this reaction. I was an obedient child and wasn't prone to tantrums by this age at least.

"What?" She asked, after pulling her gaping mouth back closed.

"I want OUT of this car!" I said, starting to cry.

It would be amazing to think that maybe I was a psychic child, able to see future stress and turmoil caused by this new sibling. But, in truth, I think I was just spoiled. That, and by the second grade, I knew enough about the birds and the bees to know that the stork didn't just call my Mom up and tell her he'd be making a delivery. My parents did not teach me these things, unfortunately. So, I'm sure I had a lot of confusion about how that baby actually GOT there too.

After a few weeks, I warmed to the idea and I behaved more like a siblingless child would be expected to behave. I started looking forward to having someone to play with and take care of when my Mom needed the help.

From the very beginning, my sister established that she was not going to be the same kind of person that I was. By the age of two she was capable of tantrums that scared the pants off of my eight-year-old self. This was the age that I fell asleep on the couch only to be awoken by her little precocious self chomping down with her new teeth onto my big toe. "OWWWWWwwww!" I screamed as my Mom came running. She looked at me with a gleeful grin, obviously proud of what she'd done.

My sister was a ham. She had huge dimpled cheeks and loved to play wildly, becoming quite good at sports as she grew older. I watched as she grew up and went to school. Her relationships with school friends were so much more different than my own. They were intense, while mine were mild. I had been painfully shy in elementary school, and she was quite the opposite. She wasn't scared to stand up to bullies, which is something I admired. But, she was swayed more by peer pressure of the more popular kids than I ever was. It wasn't uncommon for her to announce that so-and-so was NOT her best friend anymore. She hated her. Now, such-and-such was her new best friend. This behavior, actually, has not changed much for her in her adult life, though she has matured a great deal in the past few years.

Our growing up years were spent battling it out over the front seat of the car (before the day of mandatory back seat riding) and other random things. Because of our eight-year age difference, one might assume that we wouldn't have the typical sibling conflicts that two girls might have who were closer in age. Ahh, but we did. Because my sister harbored some unseen feelings that I was not fully aware of until my adult years.

Looking back on it now, it all adds up. The time she gave away my collector's Mickey Mouse watch my parents had bought for me at our only trip to Disney World (and one of our only big family vacations in my childhood). She gave it to the neighborhood bully girl who promptly broke the face and bent Mickey's arms so they stuck out in an ugly way. My Mom got the watch back, but I threw it away angrily.

Adventures in babysitting my strong-willed sister were interesting too. You see, we had a rule in my house that I was to never be physical to my little sister. She was eight years younger than me, as it was often pointed out. It didn't matter what happened, I was to NEVER hit, push or do anything to harm her. There was only one problem with this--my sister had a horrible temper. She was strong enough, even by age five, to push me down if she wanted. So, imagine what my mother must have thought the day she came home from her errands to find me backed into a corner frantically dodging my sister's fierce kicks at my shins. It was a good thing my Mom showed up when she did that day, because I was prepared to break that non-violence rule into a million smithereens, let me tell you!

Then, there was the time when she decided to take scissors to my favorite shirt. It was my freshman year of high school, so clothes were highly important to me. I reached in the laundry basket to find my shirt's sleeves sliced into strips.

Later on, when she was in high school and I was just out of college, I remember making a long drive with a dear friend of mine to see her basketball team play in a tournament at Texas A&M. After driving for hours, my sister barely acknowledged my presence before, during, or after that game. In fact, some of her friends talked more to me than she did. I left hurt, embarrassed, and confused because I was trying so hard to be her biggest supporter.

I say all of these things and it makes my sister sound terrible, I realize. She is not. She was just a very passionate little girl who had a temper and who had an axe to grind with me, her big sister, for the mere fact that I was born first. But I also have several sweet memories of our days growing up too. And, of course, I could dish out my own with her as well. I loved to tease her and still do to this day.

Flash forward to about seven years ago. My sister was engaged to her first fiance (which would not last long, but thankfully the second engagement did!). I had just announced to the family that I was pregnant, something for which most of my family and friends had long since given up. My husband and I had been married seven years and everyone just assumed we were too into our careers or not able to have children for some reason. So, most of the family was on cloud nine with the preparations for the wedding and my little news.

I'd arrived in my hometown for a visit and to be fitted for my bridesmaid's dress before I grew too large to be fitted for anything. So, my Mom, my sister and I drove to the seamstresses house and had a nice visit on the way back. It was in the middle of this ride home, that my sister broke the chatter and blurted out something abruptly. "You know," she said, "I have to say I am REALLY happy for you about this baby. I mean, seriously. I think for the first time in my life, I am happy something good is happening to you."

And, in one moment, all my perceptions of the little sister who so admired me, were shattered into pieces. I was left to try and process what she'd just admitted. My sister hated me. The reality of this sank into me like water into a dry sponge, and I realized that I had been blind to the truth all along.

"What?" I said to her in disbelief, as I watched my Mom nod knowingly in the seat next to me.

"I am serious. I REALLY AM happy for you for once."

She will never know that in her moment of trying to express love and genuine happiness for me, that she suddenly shined a bright light on to years of unseen feelings that I never knew she even had. Later, when I spoke to my mother about it, she confided in me, "She loves you, honey. But, she hates you too. I know that's hard to understand."

My Mom, however, did understand. She grew up hating her sister with a passion and still does to this day. And, I grew up listening to her resentment, watching her gritted teeth, and hearing all the stories of how her sister's life was so much more charmed than her own. She ranted about how her mother treated the two of them so differently, and how she had always gotten the short end of the stick in the family compared to her big sister.

And, then I realized what must have gone on, behind my back for all of those years. All the years that I had spent, trying to be my sister's confidant and trusted friend, my sister had spent gritting her teeth in anger at my every success. I later learned that my mother had compared our every accomplishment, holding mine up in front of my sister as incentive for her to be something my parents expected of her...something she never wanted to be in the first place.

Only, I never knew any of this. I only knew that something always kept me from having the close relationship with my sister for which I had always wished.

Today, I still feel sad when I think about the day that I realized all of these things about my sister and how she felt about me. That moment forever changed my relationship with her. But, I also know I was meant to find this all out one day as well. Because, it made me realize that relationships are not always what they seem on the outside. Sometimes there are hidden feelings that you can never even see...just bubbling beneath the surface waiting to arise.


Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Wow. I've had the exact same experience with my older brother (4 1/2 years my senior). He's hated me my whole life- and even told me once in apology.

"It's not anything you've done," he said when he was 22. "It's just that you were born." That was my moment- because up to that time, I had desperately wanted an older brother who loved and protected me.

I totally get this post. It's nice to know I'm not alone, particularly when I'm trying to explain to friends why my brother and I don't get along.

8:14 AM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Babs said...

Wow, I really, really love this entry. This definitely has to go in your list of best posts ever.

I feel sad for you in a way, but then again, what a relief to have finally gotten to the truth about what was going on.

Most of all, I like that this has made me stop to "count my blessings" (as cheesy as that sounds)... because altho I might not have a husband & kids, I'm blessed with a very close relationship with my sister. We all just have different journeys and things to appreciate in this life.

9:20 AM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Dipu said...

My sister (5 years my younger) and I have never been all that close, but we never hated each other either. I can't imagine her coming at me kicking furiously at my shins. She too had the misfortune of being compared with her older sibling, at least by teachers when she first started elementary school. Course she then ended up valedictorian of her high school class, easily surpassing me. But I think she still often felt I was more successful despite the fact that she topped my accomplishments in many areas. Go figure.

I remember that basketball story; always made me grateful that my sister and I got along, even if we weren't close.

Nice post; I felt frustrated and exasperated while reading about these events...

9:53 AM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fully understand, however my parents were extrememly good about not comparing my brother to me. My realization came at the point this last December when I truly realized who was the favorite child. After years of being the golden child, for always being good, my world has been rocked. We have a family business that my mom, dad, brother and husband all work for. My brother hardly works and makes more than my husband, and my parents are fine with that even though my husband is the COO. Well in having one the first adult conversations with my mom (I am 30) she told me "I will always protect your brother no matter what!" Talk about being hit with a ton of bricks. He gets to be protected -that's nice. So I understand how much those statements hurt. Thank You for being so giving and putting that out there for others to identify with.

11:34 AM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Angie said...

I so understand you! My sister and I have never really gotten along well. I tried for so many years and realized it was all for naught. She is so very different from me. I grew up protecting her. Nothing I ever did for her was enough. The less we are around each other the better things are. I wish it was different but it never will be. She won't even try.

12:48 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Thanks for all of your support! This was a tough one to post, but it felt kind of good to get it all out there too.

As for anonymous, I really relate to what you have said on so many levels. (Don't know who you are, or I'd email you directly!) After years of always doing what was right and expected, I feel the same way about my parents with my sister. It almost feels like you get punished for not being the drama queen who lies and gets into trouble. Had I lived my life like that, as she did, I might have their full attention all the time too!

2:20 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Tamara said...

Wow, this made me really think. Being a twin, I am so paranoid and worried about the degree to which everything is FAIR for my own children. It's so hard to be compared to a sibling and most parents do it way too much. My sister and I definitely had a love-hate relatinship growing up. But I feel lucky to say we have always wanted the best for eachother and always taken up for eachother. Great post.

3:10 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Vanessa said...

That must have bowled you over to realize how your sister felt about you, and you had done nothing but try to be close to her. I'm so sorry that you had to experience that, but at least you've gained perspective and know that it's not your fault. Thanks so much for sharing this.

8:20 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Krystyn said...

Wow, that was a great post. I'm still trying to absorb it all, I just can't imagine how I would have reacted in that situation. I probably would have started crying -- I admire the fact that you were able to keep your cool.

Thank you so much for sharing this, I know how hard it can be sometimes to reveal those "unseen truths" to the rest of the world. It's inspiring.

8:53 PM, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Angela said...

This was an incredibly insightful post, and I love how you ended it. You can truly go years thinking that you know a person through and through and in just one minute everything can get turned on its ear. I guess that's why relationships can be so scary, because they're constantly changing, evolving, regressing, moving forward...

8:58 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

That was a wonderful post. I'm sure those were tough feelings to share!

10:58 PM, January 26, 2006  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I completely understand this post. A sibling relationship is a complicated one. My hubs family always rewarded his sister through all of her highs and lows (and believe me the lows were low!) yet because he had ALWAYS done the right thing, he was resented by some for having it "easy." Yeah right. They act like he got something they didn't.

6:08 AM, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Shannon (sentimental) said...

I love it and it is so reflective of the past and how it affects the future. So often the things we do and others do for that matter at a moment, we don't realize the affect they have later in life. I loved it. Thanks for sharing!

9:21 AM, January 27, 2006  
Blogger Shelli said...

I love this post even though it must be painful for you. It really is written so well and with such depth and emotion. I hope in the years since your sister's unwitting admission, you have been able to foster a better relationship with her and watch it flourish into a much more beautiful and loving sisterhood.

4:36 AM, January 30, 2006  

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