“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten.” These iconic, memorable words resonated with me all throughout my life, ever since I saw Lilo and Stitch, the Disney original movie about two sisters. It was one of my favorite films as a child, and it ended up teaching me how to be a pretty great big sister when I grew older.
I was twelve when I officially lost the title of “only child” and moved up in the ranks to “big sister.” At that age, I was both excited and terrified by the idea of having younger siblings. I didn’t know how to be a big sister. I didn’t even know what that job entailed. Luckily, I had a pretty great fictional role model to turn to: Nani became my inspiration. She taught me everything I ever needed to know about what it means to be the oldest child. Now, I’m here to spread her wisdom.
Number one rule when it comes to being a big sister: regardless of age, siblings fight. A lot. And that’s okay.
I am nineteen years old. My little sister is five, and I am ashamed to admit that there have been times when you can’t really tell that there’s a fourteen-year age gap between us. It turns out that regardless of the age difference, arguments happen, and maturity ceases to exist when it’s your sister involved. But that’s fine. If there’s one thing that I learned from Nani and Lilo, it’s that my relationship with my sister doesn’t have to be sunshine and rainbows 24/7. Fighting with Kam comes naturally, but it doesn’t make me love her any less.
The second thing I learned from life and Lilo is that siblings are weird. Like, adopting an alien from outer-space weird. Embrace this weirdness, love it, and hold it close. My brother has a joke book that he carries around and will practice on basically any living human. My sister has the ability to attract wild felines to her like some bizarre version of a Disney princess. I’ve learned to accept these traits the same way they accept my irrationally intense emotions regarding fictional characters and my tendency to wear long scarves and funky colored socks in the middle of a Florida summer. It’s part of what makes us unique, and it makes for fun anecdotes at parties. We’re all weird. Siblings just happen to see more of the weird than most people.
Nani’s rule number three for being the best big sister you can be: imagination should be encouraged at all times. Whether it involved making a fish a peanut-butter sandwich every Thursday or developing roles of film to hang on Lilo’s wall of tourists, Nani always encouraged her little sister’s creative streak, even when others would’ve written her off as odd. My brother turns every box in our house into robot or a ray gun. There’s even something that I think is a hat that lets you talk to the dog. I’ve learned to help him with the scissors and pass him the tape whenever he asks. And any box in our house automatically gets set aside for Logan’s inventions once. And since we’re 98% positive that she speaks their language, my sister gets final say on naming all of our cats (we’re up to four now). I love encouraging my siblings’ creativity. It reminds me of what it’s like to be a kid.
The main lesson that I learned from Lilo and Stitch is that in the end, there really isn’t anything you won’t do for your siblings. Whether it’s as simple as helping them catch a cat or as scary as facing down an intergalactic alien council, my job as big sister is to be there for them no matter what. Sure, they’re weird and loud and sometimes I think they get paid to annoy me, but they’re mine. And I love them. That’s what being a sister is all about, and I have the Disney movie to prove it.