A guest post by Haley Reynolds – a dear friend since Freshman year…
I have this nickname I’ve never quite been able to shake; never really escaped its shadow. It’s Vish (as in, short for vicious. Ouch.). And when I type ouch, I really mean it. I hate knowing that I earned such a title.
How did I win such a moniker, you might ask? Because, from your side of the computer screen, I likely seem pretty harmless. Well, I was the evil big sister. I scratched, hit, shoved,taunted, left out, and generally inflicted pain on my younger sister at every opportunity. Now, granted, she was a typical younger sister: bossy, nosy, tag-alongy, and generally annoying. That, however, wouldn’t generally warrant a worm shoved up the nose, a swinging by the pony tail, or a run-in with a bicycle (driven by this shamed guest blogger). Needless to say, I earned the name Vish. Painful to admit.
All this viciousness equated to a less-than-ideal relationship between me and my little sister, Heather. We battled until I moved out of the house and went to college. Once we didn’t have to live together, we discovered we actually enjoy one another’s company, and have since built a much stronger, loving relationship. But, still being young (at thirty), we have a longer history of upheaval than of friendship, and that just stinks.
So, of course, the universe would have it that I would birth two incredible baby girls, just shy of four years apart. This has forced me to face my past as a wicked big sister, and to tread thoughtfully through my days as Ella and Lilliana’s mother. I have actually said to these girls (mid-battle), “You are supposed to be the kid team, and you are supposed to be against ME, not EACH OTHER! Sister team, not Mommy and Ella against Lilli or Mommy and Lilli against Ella!” (which might not sound like I’m actually being thoughtful at all.) And, while that was a silly, heat-of-the-moment sort of thing to say, it is true. I really believe it. I want us all to be a family unit, but I also think it is so important for their to be some sense of sibling solidarity. Because, in the end, these little sprites will spend a lifetime together. I, on the other hand, won’t be around to see them as the little old ladies still getting together for tea parties, chatting about their great-grandkids.
These days, I just know that I’m straining against sibling rivalry every day. I’m putting my girls in positions to be honest, true friend-sisters. I’m teaching them how to talk to each other about their frustrations, how to solve their problems without my constant intervention, how to be understanding of each other while standing up for themselves. I’m telling true stories about me and my sister, and talking honestly about how our actions affected us, and continue to affect us. At least, usually. We all have those oops moments now and again…
I still remember my mom, an incredibly hard-working, devoted, overwhelmed mother, hollering, “I AM NOT A REFEREE!!!” at the top of her lungs when my sister and I had somehow dragged my poor middle brother into our bickering. And already, with girls ages seven and four, I’m ducking that job. Because who wants to break up fights and wear that ugly striped getup?
I’m going to instead keep on fighting the good fight, working toward sisterly love from the start. And today, as I washed up a few dishes, I looked out the back window, as the sun dotted the shade, at Ella and Lilli. They were lying on their backs in the grass, Ella’s one knee bent up, our new puppy, Maisy, draped, sleeping across her chest, and Lilli’s blonde curls splayed out around her head, with our dog Murphy at their feet. They were shoulder to shoulder, looking up at the branches whirling in the wind, and their hair blustered, and they were talking and giggling, and soaking up the world and the company of one another. And I felt, for a brief moment, like I must be doing something right…which is a really good feeling for a mom who works hard to do better all the time (and who is still running from that sticky nickname).