I have three sisters, but I still feel like an only child in a lot of ways.
Two of these sisters are my step-sisters, whom I have known since I was fourteen. One (H) is two years younger than I am, and the other is six years older (A). I lived with H one week on/one week off for four years, and we were sort of close-ish during that time but haven’t been since then. She is emotionally distant (to everyone in the family, not just me) and very conservative, in a family of bleeding hearts. A and I are closer, but still don’t see/talk to each other that often in recent years. When her relationship with her kid’s dad broke up about 6 years ago, we saw a lot of each other and I took care of my nephew at least one day a week, but she has a new partner now and we live in different cities and while I love her, we don’t have the shared experience of having grown up together (we’ve never even lived together) and we’re also pretty dissimilar in how we live our lives and parent our kids. I’m still very glad to have her as a sister, but I wish that we’d grown up together for at least a little while.
The sister I did grow up with was born when I was four and a half. One of my earliest memories of sisterhood was asking how long it would be until she’d play with me. She never did. My mother thought something was ‘wrong’ from right when N was born, but it wasn’t until she started having seizures that anyone took my mom’s concerns seriously. N is severely intellectually disabled, moderately physically disabled, and has uncontrolled seizures. She didn’t receive an actually diagnosis until about 10 years ago, with the advent of more advanced genetic testing – she has a micro deletion syndrome. I’ve thought to myself (self-pityingly) on occasion that I had none of the benefits of having a sibling, and all the drawbacks. She was in and out of hospitals for our entire childhood (and still is), and she required so much care and energy from my exhausted, depressed parents that they didn’t really much of those things to give to anyone else – not each other, not me. I vacillated between thinking that N would be ‘cured’ and worrying N would die. I think they probably did, too. They separated, got back together, then finally divorced (which was a relief to us all). I did not have a happy childhood, and I sure as fuck did not have a happy sibling relationship.
I don’t have a lot of unfulfilled dreams that I plan on inflicting upon my kids, but I want so very much for them to have a reasonably pleasant childhood and a good relationship with one another. I want J to have a sister without a caveat*. Even if it’s love/hate, I want them to have that intimacy with one another that I have so often wished for. I always thought my mother truly hated her sisters, but when I told her we were having another child she told me “they’re my best friends”. That’s either some powerful sister-magic, or some serious bullshit – but it sure is compelling.
* She also will have a sister with a caveat – F, her donor’s child, who is her sister and also not since she lives on another continent.