Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sibling rivalry

I have one sister. She is seventeen months younger than me and we couldn't be more different.

I also believe that my parents treated us very differently. As a teacher, I understand that "fair" doesn't always mean "the same." However, IMO this kind of spiraled out of control in my family.

This morning, when I looked at my account, my sister's status said "[sister] had fun using W.ii Fit. Thanks mom, for the early birthday present."

I am thirty three years old. This should not bother me. I feel childish because it does.

But my birthday was in December. My mom called me on my birthday to wish me happy birthday and then told me she didn't know what to get me.

A week later when I talked to her, she said she had gotten me "something small" but needed something else. I told her that I really wanted to buy an i.Pod T.ouch but wasn't sure I wanted to spend that much. I told her if she wanted to, she could send me a gift certificate that I could use towards the i.Pod.

The first week of February, I spoke to her again. She hadn't "gotten around" to it yet. I wanted to have the i.Pod when I went on vacation, so I told her that if she still wanted to contribute towards it she should send a check. She never did.

Now, I am aware that there is no rule that says my mom has to buy me birthday presents. In fact, I was even uncomfortable suggesting she send me a check. But she did ask me what she should give me.

I don't know if she really did buy my sister the W.ii Fit or if it is a similar situation- she said she'd send her money for it. And if it is that situation, it's possible she hasn't sent the money. But I know my sister, and she WILL continue to ask.

This is just one of many situations (often around money, but not always) that just makes me nuts with my family.

There are so many I could list here.
How my sister would call when she was in college and cry to my parents that she couldn't pay off her credit card, so they'd send her money. Meanwhile, I never asked them to send me money and was working three jobs to buy my class texts.
How my sister hated her job and would call my parents crying, so they told her to quit and sent her money to help her while she was unemployed for five months. I never would have considered quitting a job without another lined up. My first year of teaching was terrible. Every day I would call my boyfriend and cry "What if I can't find another job! I'll have to do this for another year!!!"
How my parents paid for my sister's entire wedding. Five years later, as I was planning mine, they told me "We aren't going to be able to help you out at all, money wise." This bothers me more than it should, because we likely wouldn't have taken money from them anyway. We wanted control over the wedding decisions. But it's the principle of the thing! In all fairness, they did make our invitations (they did my sister's too) and, when my mom visited me six months after our wedding, they ended up buying us a dining room hutch as a wedding gift. But they planned and paid for the entire wedding for my sister.

My sister is one of those people who is able to make everyone else miserable if she does not like how things are going. This is something even my parents will admit to. Because of this, my parents tend to give in to my sister more easily than they do to me. And even in my thirties, it grates on me.

My sister's version of the story is very different, I'm sure. When we were both visiting last summer, we were talking about my uncle's HS competitiveness with my dad and how he continued to stew about it over the last forty years. My sister started talking about how she always felt competitive with me when we were kids (really? I didn't participate in this competition...) and how it was the "cause of her depression" when she was 25.

Blah. I'm totally not explaining this well, and am probably coming off like a totally insensitive bitch. (Well, I guess I need to live up to my blog title...) But when she said that, my dad, who "sides" with her and stands up for her almost all of the time, refuted this. "I don't think it caused your depression. It may have been one contributing factor..."

Because of her feelings of competitiveness (I'm projecting), she's done many of the things my parents wanted both of us to do- things I didn't. She joined the teams my dad wanted us to join. She went to the college they encouraged both of us to go to (the same one they graduated from). She is much more religiously observant than I am. She got married at 24. She had a baby at 29.

My parents, especially my dad, tell me that this is in all my head. They tell me that I have little patience for my sister and am judgemental towards her. And maybe I am. But I have to say, I feel strongly that their behavior towards her has fueled this.

I had my feelings and opinions about my sister validated a bit last summer. When we were visiting, III got to interact with my sister (and see how she interacts with my family) for himself for the first time. He had obviously heard what I had to say about her, but one thing that I really respect about III is he tells me what he thinks, even if it disagrees with my opinions.

He was shocked at the difference in how my parents interacted with me and with my sister. He expressed that he found my sister difficult- that she acted spoiled and was attention seeking. It made me feel like I'm not totally off base. If someone else feels this way after observing my sister, even after a short time, then there must be some basis for my feelings towards her.

I don't expect this to change. My therapist has suggested that I talk to my parents about this, but when I have approached it in the past the reaction, especially from my dad, has not been good. He gets very defensive. This summer when it came up, he threw a holy fit and basically denied a lot of stuff that I know for a fact happened. It's like he has selective memory around some things.

So apparently this is just something I will have to deal with in the years to come. My dad hasn't been to visit me since my wedding. He's never met my dog, because she was at the sitter when we got married, and the last time he was here before that was before I got B-dog. I've had her for four years this June. They have visited my sister multiple times in those years. Part of that is because I tend to make visiting them a priority, while my sister tells them they can't afford the tickets. Part of that recently is because she has a son. I can't help wondering how (or if) it will change once we have kids...

Ultimately, as much as this irritates me, I would rather be me than be her. I am very independent and responsible, and a big part of why is likely my parents expectations of me, and the money issues (ie: not having any money) I had in early adulthood. While there were many difficult times because of those things, I wouldn't trade them for anything because they helped me develop characteristics and strategies that I am proud of and that have gotten me where I am today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah - my younger sister is the same way but we mended our relationship a few years ago.

My mother was completely neglectful to all of us - my father did what he could - but at least we were all treated equally! I would be frustrated too if I were you - family is tough.