Sophie Carter-Kahn
August 26, 2015 6:05 pm

Sisters are often our best friends; friends are like sisters that we get to choose. If you are not close with a biological sister or don’t have one, that doesn’t mean you don’t have A Sister. It’s a spiritual bond, formed from time spent together and strengthened with secrets and laughter and sometimes fights. Usually, the narrative is that of a younger person learning from an older one. However, my younger sister is (I believe) the smartest person in the world. She’s taught me amazing amounts of knowledge. I have just the one sister; these are very personal lessons from a lifetime together. I’m sure that you and your sister (or sister-friends) have learned from and taught each other different things in your different, beautiful lives. Somehow, though, I bet that Sister Lessons are pretty universal.

Always look out for Number One. You are Number One.

My sister is four and a half years younger than I am (basically five, although if you ask her, she’ll say basically four). Even as a little kid, she always had an instinct to protect herself, to take time for self-care and self-love, and never to let others dim her shine. I have a distinct memory of crying about bullies in fourth grade and having my baby sister tell me, “Why do you care about them? If I were you, I would laugh in their faces.” I couldn’t quite get there at that age, but it was such a mind-blowing moment to realize that I didn’t have to be quite so hurt by the rude dummies in my class. It didn’t even occur to my sister to be hurt by those who she didn’t see as worthy of her attention. They were trying to bring me down; so, she thought, why even give them the time of day? I strive constantly to be as secure in my self-worth as my sister is. She’s so wise that she knew this from day one.

Respect the love shown to you even when it comes in other forms than you expect.

My sister and I are very different. She likes brussels sprouts; I know that brussels sprouts are disgusting demon-food. She loved soccer and sports and was always really good at them in school; I scored a goal on my own team the first and only time I tried to play soccer in a league. One of the hardest differences between us growing up had to do with our love languages. I am very verbally-oriented; I would often wish she would tell me she loved me or that she thought I was cool. I also value loving touch in my relationships — I would try to hug and cuddle with my sister all the time. My sister, on the other hand, doesn’t really even like hugs, and values her personal space above all else (except her first edition Harry Potter books, which is fair). Over the years, she has learned the importance of always saying “I love you!” to me at the end of a phone call, and I have grown to appreciate that sitting next to me while we both read means just as much to her as a big enthusiastic hug does to me.

Lean on those around you for support.

My parent’s divorce was pretty hard on us as kids. I spent a lot of years feeling enormous pressure, thinking I had to take care of my younger sister, that she needed me to fix everything for her. In a lot of ways, she did need me; in many others, however, I could have saved myself a lot of internal hand-wringing if I had allowed her to be my support as much as I longed to be hers. Now, I call her for advice about as often as she calls me. We have different advice specialties: she could have majored in Dealing With Dad and How To Make A Budget, while I’m more of a dabbler in Making Mom Happy and Telling People You’re Angry While Still Being Kind. Either way, though, it’s only together that we can muddle through life, complementary areas of expertise at the ready to aid and abet each other.

It’s okay to fight with those you love, and it’s okay if they’re mad at you.

I hate when people are mad at me. I hate when I even think somebody might be a little annoyed at me. I don’t like feeling like my relationship with somebody might be on the rocks, or that something is off between us. My sister could give somebody the silent treatment for weeks and stay cool as a cucumber. Her anger flares quick and hot when I push her too far, and she doesn’t stay affected by anger aftershocks for long. I will worry for a week about a harsh conversation I had with somebody when they’re probably not thinking about it at all. We fight all the time, because we are very different people who want to be very close. However, I have learned from my sister to allow fights to happen, to let our anger out (albeit never in purposefully-hurtful ways) and then fade away once we get it out in the open. I’ve learned that I don’t need to pretend everything is alright to make it alright. It’s okay to fight, especially with someone who will stick around until everything is worked out.

Do not assume you know what is in someone’s brain. Do. Not. Do. It.

My sister and I, when we were younger, used to get in fights all the time because she would steal (“borrow”) my jewelry and clothes and things. I saw it as spiteful, a way to make me mad. Talking about it years later, however, I realized that she wanted to be like me, to dress like me, and she had taken things that I wouldn’t let her touch in order to be closer to me. This hadn’t even occurred to me at the time. It’s so tempting to fall into a trap of applying retroactive motivations to someone else, of assuming they did something for the same reason you would have done it. It’s even harder not to assume that when the person you’re thinking of grew up in the same house as you and is the only person who knows as much as you do about the particular way your mom wants the upstairs to be vacuumed. Luckily, this lesson comes with an easy follow-through step: Just ask. Now that we are older, we avoid many fights and tensions just by talking about what we were trying to do and why. More often than not, my sister’s motivations are good.

Having a sister is the best.

I was so excited before my sister was born — so excited to be a big sister, to have someone younger to teach to braid hair, to play dolls with me, and to be my partner-in-crime. For a lot of time growing up, these were merely dreams. She does not like dolls, except for the one time she used one as a weapon to bash me on the head, and we both committed a lot of sister-on-sister crime. Now, I can’t go a day without touching base with her. She’s the first person I call (tied with my mom and my non-biological best friend). She knows all my secrets and she’s my biggest champion.

We grow with our sisters, learning how to live with and celebrate someone who is unlike and alike us in all the most frustrating ways. My sister is my best friend, and I can’t wait to learn even more from her as we get older.

(Image via Paramount Domestic Television.)

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