My childhood friend became my stepsister, and I can't imagine life without her
April 10th is National Siblings Day. Here, one contributor recounts her evolving relationship with her stepsister.
When I was nearly eight years old, my dad and I moved into a big house overlooking the ocean. I’d lost my mom about a year earlier, and it was just the two of us. I was an only child from the beginning of my life, but it never felt that way. I was always surrounded by cousins, second cousins, and friends from school and dance class. But when my dad and I moved into our new home, it felt like such a big place for just the two of us.
One warm summer’s day, I peered out from our second story window. To my surprise, there were kids playing in the front yard of the house directly across the street. Even though I was shy, I ran outside with excitement and delight. I had no idea there were other kids close by.
It was on that fateful day that I met the people who would become my stepmom, stepbrother, and stepsister.
We immediately hit it off. Every morning upon waking, I found myself looking forward to hanging out with them (and eating dinner at their house). It was truly the first thing I thought about when I started my day.
At the time, my not-yet-stepsister was five years old, with wild, curly red hair, freckles, and an affinity for wearing biker shorts. She embodied sass, fun and confidence. I was three years older than her, but I usually felt more awkward and out of place. I was tall, sensitive, and spoke with an English accent for a year because I was obsessed with The Beatles. Even though we seemed like night and day on paper, we quickly bonded over our strange sense of humor and shared love of boy bands.
And while we got along for the most part, it wasn’t always easy. I would often feel intimidated by her even though I was older.
I can remember a lot of times when things had to go her way. I was too scared to challenge her, instead feeling annoyed and overly emotional about it all. But a few hours after any incident, we’d be getting along as though nothing had happened.
Prompted by who knows what, I wrote the following entry in an old journal:
I can’t remember what led me to write these words, but I remember fearing we’d eventually stop getting along because we seemed so different. At the time, I didn’t know our families would soon merge — we were still just friends and neighbors.
Through my frustrations, I was intrigued by her fierceness. I was fascinated by how she seemed so self-assured at such a young age. In a strange way, even if I was sometimes afraid to cross her, I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.
Looking back, this tumultuous relationship made total sense. Both of us were going through big life changes at particularly young ages. The death of a parent, divorce — there was a lot to deal with. We were just kids, so we never truly knew what we each other was going through.
Reshaping our lives to merge our families together was a crazy, fun, and difficult adventure.
Our parents always rose to the occasion, keeping things fun throughout a lot of tough conversations and “family meetings.” There were tears and silent treatments, but lots of laughter and love, too.
I don’t know exactly when it shifted — maybe a few years after we met — but we started to talk more honestly with each other. We grew up a little. It wasn’t overnight, but in a series of refreshing events, we actually got along consistently.
For the first time in my life, I truly felt like I had a sister.
It felt different than having a close friend or a cousin to do cool things with — it was bigger than that. We supported each other, kept each other’s secrets, and talked every single day.
When we graduated from high school and went our separate ways for college, our relationship only got stronger. We wrote letters, Skyped, texted, and visited each other often. As we ventured out into the world, we protected each other. Once she tried to shove an annoying guy who wouldn’t leave us alone at a concert. I saw it happening, so I quickly picked her up and placed her next to me — that’s our relationship in a nutshell.
She’s always ready to fight for me, but sometimes I have to reel her back in. And it always ends in laughter.
It’s been 17 years since our parents got married, and I can’t imagine my life without my sister. Our circumstances may have started off a little rocky, but we’ve learned how to work through tough transitions. It made our relationship that much stronger. We live far apart now, but it doesn’t feel that way — we’re in constant communication. I look to her for advice because she is wise beyond her years. She’s my person — in any situation, we can turn to each other and convey that we’re on the same page with just a look.
Needless to say, if I hadn’t crossed the street to play with my new neighbor that day, my life would be incredibly different.