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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ebony & Ivory

We learn to live, we learn to give each other what we need to survive together alive. - Paul McCartney

I'm burned out.

Firstborn, middle born, last born, only child, or twin.

How two people that come from the exact same parents can be so completely opposite of one another is baffling to me.

In my sister and my case, I blame our age difference.

For as long as I could remember, I wished for a little sister and then when I turned 11, my wish came true.
And before you ask, my sister was completely planned; the 11 year age difference and everything. My mother even had her IUD removed in order to conceive her. TMI?

My parents were no strangers to age gaps; there were 13 years between my father and his eldest brother and eight between him and his middle brother. There were six years between my mother and her brother.

Whenever my parents were asked why they waited so long to have another child, the response was that they wanted to be more financially stable. Fair enough, I suppose. I didn't care, I finally had what I had always wanted.

I remember every detail of the day my sister was born. It was magical and hectic and so exciting. Up until the birth of my own son, it was one of the best days of my life and nothing can compare to being old enough to witness the joy and pride in my parents over the new addition to our family. It was written all over their faces for the nine months leading up to Leah's arrival and it was understood that our household would never be the same.

As I was entering high school, she was starting kindergarten.

As I graduated from college, she was struggling with her math homework.

As I was going through a divorce, she was buying a prom dress.

As I was busy building a career, she was trying to figure out what her major would be in college.

As I was a newlywed for a second time and she had just graduated from college, we both lost our parents.

As I was preparing to have a baby, she was trying to start her career.

It's sad to think that our lives will never catch up to each other and while we may experience some of the same things years a part, it was only with the deaths of our parents that they were derailed at the exact same time. Only we know what it feels like to go through something like that. Our memories of our parents are different in some ways, but our love and loss is shared.

While Leah was in college, our parents still lived and worked overseas so I became, for lack of a better term, her surrogate mother. This is not a role that I have ever been completely suited for nor enjoy all that much.

Never the less, I answered the phone in the early morning hours, waited for the texts they said she landed safely, replied to the numerous questions about growing up, life after living under your parents roof and members of the opposite sex and
offered advice, whether solicited or not over money management, career opportunities and portraying a positive, wholesome image. I did this through her four years of college and still do it now.

I'm tired of being the older sister.

I have my own child now.

I'm burned out.

Over the years we have shared many laughs and good times. We've gotten more than a little pissed off at one another, especially lately.

We are true sisters and I love Leah with all my heart.

After 26 years later, while I can't imagine my life without my sister in it, I honestly believe that the 11 years between us has been detrimental and I can't help but wonder how our relationship would be different, better even if we were closer in age.

My sister and I are in need of a long, heart-to-heart, an open, honest, most likely with raised voices, possibly four letter words and maybe even some tears conversation. I'm dreading it, but it's overdue.

I feel a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility.

I want to redefine my role.

I'm burned out.

This post is for Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop - Prompt #1: Why are your burned out?

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Blogger Holly said...

Wow...that is a lot of responsibility...I know many people with large age gaps in their family...there are 6 years between my own kids. But you are right, it is time you get to be mommy to our own kid. I hope the heart-to-heart can get things moving in the right direction.

November 17, 2010 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Kisha said...

I completely understand. I have a sister eight years my junior, and due to some absentee parents, I have pretty much been the only mother she's ever known. Problem is, she wants my motherly advice and help, but refuses to give me the respect the position deserves. I wish you the best of luck in this extremely difficult situation.

November 17, 2010 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

November 17, 2010 at 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Dominique @Dominique's Desk said...

It must have been a lot of responsibility taking care of your younger sister. How that you get the recharge you need to carry on.

November 18, 2010 at 12:29 AM  
OpenID said...

Oh my... I feel sorry for Leah actually. You had your parents advice and love a lot longer than Leah. And now she's about to lose her older sister. Her surrogant mother.

Maybe try being her friend... her sister... instead of her mother.

November 18, 2010 at 4:11 AM  
Blogger singedwingangel said...

As the baby of an 11 yr gap myself I am gona jump on Leah side here. I was not my sister's friend I was their personal baby doll. They could dress me up , show me off then would walk out and leave to do the grown up things, never realizing that their walking out after treating me like a grown up left me shattered. When I was 7 they were gone literally. All grown up and on their own and I was suddenly the same as an only child.
Then when our parents split up the void became even bigger. He was there for their graduation, weddings, baby births, not so much for me. He had a new life that I was not a part of.
Even now my sisters treat me as if I am still that baby. They can ask me to do for them , babysit, watch their grandkids, run their errands, but if I need them they act as if I am being dramatic and my life is not as full as thiers cause I stay at home.
Stand on her side of the fence and realize she has wanted and needed you to be her SISTER not her momma. She needs you to be her friend and tell her sometimes life sucks but you dust yourself off and move on. Take the baby label off of her and realize that yes she is grown, yep she wants your advice, but on an adult level, not a mother hen trying to shelter her child.

November 18, 2010 at 4:38 AM  
Blogger parentingBYdummies said...

I am the older sister to a 6 year younger brother. We aren't close, but I blame that on the fact that he is annoying and I am awesome. And, that he is immature. Lucky for us, we still are fortunate enough to have our parents to keep us together. And my husband who has the strange situation of being my husband and my little brothers very best friend. It's weird that they can like each other so very much.

November 18, 2010 at 4:53 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

That is hard place to be.
You do need that talk. You need to redefine your relationship. Its time to be sisters. Or friends. And hopefully both.
She may be feeling the same burn out. Best of wishes.
To both of you.

November 18, 2010 at 5:14 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

It's a difficult situation. While you may not WANT to be there you two are family. I like the suggestion of trying to be her friend instead of her mother. Have your talk but try to explain gently how you are feeling. Who knows, she might be quite ready to have you as a friend instead of a mother as well.

Good luck!
Visiting from Mama Kat's

November 18, 2010 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Natalie said...

There is a huge age difference between me & most of my siblings. My sister is 8 years younger than me. It's not that I don't love her, but we're in totally different places. Plus, I see her making so many of the same mistakes I made. I want something better for her, but of course she doesn't listen to the advice I give.

I think all we can do is be honest, tell them how we fell & stick to our boundaries. One day she'll grow up & hopefully you'll be able to be close.

November 18, 2010 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger June Freaking Cleaver said...

I think I need to ask my daughter if she feels as you do. When my son has a bad day (which occurs quite often), if I am not here to talk with him, he calls her. There is a sixteen year difference between them.

I don't want her to feel burdened. I am so appreciative of how she cares for him.

I'm sure your parents also appreciated all that you've done for your sister.

I took a look at her blog (saw the deleted comment); she sounds like she still needs some parenting, or at least someone to be her sounding board.

Perhaps you two could talk and create some rules of engagement.

November 18, 2010 at 6:47 AM  
Blogger KLZ said...

That's a lot to take on yourself.

But as an older sister who's little one is only three years younger? You always have that responsibility a little bit.

November 18, 2010 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Definitely sound like you need to talk. My sister is only 17 months younger than me and we too couldn't be more opposite and I constantly have the "i had to figure it out on my own why can't you" thoughts in my head. I think that is part of being a big sister.
As far as the mom role you have taken on, that is hard. When my husbands dad died he definitely had to step into the dad role for his younger sister. I saw how tough it was for him. He definitely hit a point where he "burned out" and had to sit down and talk with his sister to redefine their relationship.
Good luck.

November 18, 2010 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Circus Daily said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your parents...I'm somewhat new here and am just learning this. That's terrible, I can't imagine.

But even though your relationship at times may seem like a burden or more a responsibility, how lovely for you to have such a strong bond with your sister.

My sister and I are only 5 years apart, and we come and go into each other's life like a never ending braid of twine. As soon as an awkward amount of time passes...something brings us close again. A birth, death, or just plain..."i saw this and thought of you call"

Sounds like you and your sister are just due for that next life crosses event.


November 18, 2010 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger The mad woman behind the blog said...

Oh good luck. I do hope you share how this goes down b/c I think you'll find it cathartic. (and I'm nosey)
My sister is 9 year my junior yet we are in the same place, her children older than mine, our weddings were two weeks apart. We're doing this growing up thing together. And I am so grateful to call her my friend. (And yes, since seeing her care for her own children, I stopped being the worried mother hen...she can handle it, and she appreciated my faith in her.)

November 18, 2010 at 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Nichole said...

I completely understand what you are feeling.

My brother and I are seven years apart and after he was born, my mother went soft, so I was responsible for pushing him and making sure that he did the things he needed to do, which led to mutual resentment.

To this day, we have a parent/child relationship and I'm not optimistic that that will ever change. There is little in my life that makes me sadder than that realization.

I wish a happier outcome for you and your deserve that.

November 18, 2010 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Stef said...

WOw! That is so tough. I have 7 sisters and from the oldest to the youngest is only 12 years. I can imagine being so far apart would effect your relationship.
That being said, I am in the process now of setting up some of my own boundaries, because as much as I love my sisters and immediate family, I have my own husband and 5 children to take care of.
Good luck with that. My prayers are with you!

November 18, 2010 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger lrw1225 said...

My 3 kids are each 7 years apart and I never considered that my oldest(18) may be put in that position especially with my youngest(3). I've often though about the fact that when my son graduates high school my daughter will be in her 30's but I never imagined anything happening to me or my husband and her having to take on such a role in her sibling's lives. Thanks for the eye opener.

November 18, 2010 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Mothers' Hideaway said...

I have a younger sister and I was always that surrogate mom for her. I'm the only one that can tell her she's being a bitch or acting up or the truth about what she's going through. When I was getting married she just finished high school. When I was having my children she was just starting her career. I was always alone. Being the oldest is burn out. Being more than a sibling is more burn out. Good luck with your talk! :hug:

November 19, 2010 at 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your entire rant comes off as incredibly selfish. It's as if you resent your sister for being younger than you, for needing you. What did you expect? Offering advice about the opposite sex, answering late night phone calls - it's what sisters do. It's called being part of a family. Graceful and giving people accept these responsibilities without a second thought, without resentment - and especially without guilt tripping the recipients of their kindness. In an online blog, for strangers to see, no less. Your rant captures everything that's wrong with people today. You're right, you do need to redefine your role.

November 20, 2010 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Sherri said...

Wow. I hadn't realized that there was such a big gap in your ages, and that HAS to be tough to work through. I have a sis-in-law who is only 8 years younger, and I still don't feel like we will ever be in the exact same boat. At her wedding, part of my toast was exactly like your post...all of the leap-frog that we played as she was going through high school and I was already married and working.

I agree 100% that you just are in need of redefining your role. And she needs to redefine hers as well. I think family is tough, always, but you seem to have the interest in making some changes and moving forward.

Now I am going to read the other comments; from your tweet I think there may be something to see?! Grrr...

November 20, 2010 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger pr0udmom0f3 said...

Wow!! ANON sure does sound like that ANNIE chick that was psychoanalyzing Mama Fargo a few weeks back.

But now, she is too chicken shit (yep, I said it!) to show herself on the blogs, seeing as we ALL gave that nasty, unprofessional psychotic a run for her $100/hour expense.

November 23, 2010 at 4:50 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

This makes me so sad. And my thoughts won't fit in this small box, so just sending you a hug..

November 23, 2010 at 10:19 AM  
Anonymous mysoulforsale said...

First of all, I'm so sorry that you lost both of your parents. That's a terrible tragedy for anyone at your young ages.

Second, I want you to know that you have my sympathy, empathy, and full support (i.e. good thoughts going your way), because I know what it's like to be estranged from an only sibling. It's tough, and building those bridges are tough, too, especially after the many years that my only other sibling and I didn't speak at all.

Be true to yourself. Be respectful but don't sugar-coat anything. Standing your ground in a loving and compassionate way will bring her back to you. Best of luck to you in this.

April 5, 2011 at 4:44 PM  

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