Realize the reach of sisterly power


Who would I be without my sisters? I am talking both about the sisters who were born into my life, and the sisters I have chosen throughout my adult life.
Special group. My very first boyfriend was an only child. I realized, even at my young age, that he was not anything like me, even though I never could quite put my finger on what it was.
I realize now that he would have been an entirely different person if he had been raised with siblings.
I now know he had never experienced that inexplicable mix of jabs and taunts and those pangs of love and hate that cannot be explained unless you’ve lived it, surviving sibling rivalry and shared bedrooms and late night talk-fests.
Influence. In my very early years, my sisters were my friends and my only playmates for many months on end.
They were my biggest supporters and my harshest critics. They could level me with hard truths I did not want to hear. They could lift me up when the rest of the world seemed to be out to destroy me.
It has been said that in large families, it is sometimes siblings who have more bearing on the outcome of a younger child than even the parents. Weary from parenting the older children, much of the discipline – and entertaining, even – falls to those children already partially raised.
I know for a fact this was the case for me.
As the fourth daughter, it was quite often my sisters who set me straight on how to properly behave, how to react when peer pressure at school first reared its ugly head, and always, always, how to lose at Monopoly.
My sisters taught me many things: Life is one long compromise. Don’t borrow a blouse without asking. Don’t pretend to know something when you really don’t. Don’t hog the bathroom. And never, ever tell a lie or you won’t go to heaven. (That one kept me awake nights for a very long time until I figured out it was slightly overstated to keep me in line … ).
Lasting memory. I will never, ever forget one pivotal moment in my life. We were standing in the kitchen, my oldest sister and I. I was fighting back tears after having been slighted by my best friend at school.
“I want you to remember something,” my big sister said to me. “There is no one – no one – in the entire universe who is like you. You are amazing, and you are unique; you are impressive in your own right, and you are like no one else. If you choose to continue being friends with that girl after she treated you so badly, she is going to be one mighty lucky girl.”
It changed me, just hearing those words. I know it seems so simplistic, and it did nothing to change the fact that I had been hurt and humbled by an adolescent friend. But, somehow it changed the core of my ego, my sense of self. I no longer needed a crowd – I just needed to realize I was worthy of being on the planet.
Tough crowd. While being your best cheerleader, though, sisters can also be your toughest critic.
“OHMYGOSH! That outfit looks TERRIBLE on you!” are the words that spring to mind when I recall living under the scrutiny of three older sisters. They saved me from total fashion reputation ruination – more than once.
Sharing a bedroom with my highly organized and incredibly ordered sister was challenging. I honestly don’t know how Debi managed to keep from throwing me and all my messy piles of stuff out the window.
We often laugh now, but the tension of sisterhood can make some mighty tough teenage years even tougher.
Somehow, we got through it, together.
Another sister. My best friend as an adult became a sister.
When Wendy was injured in a serious accident, she told the nurses at the hospital that I was her sister and was to be admitted to see her at any time.
Those hours spent by her bedside drew us even closer together, and I am so grateful to have had them. We were blessed to have one another.
To the rescue. Just today, weary from a tough week of working two jobs, seven days a week, I was ready to drop. But, I had to prepare my home for a real estate agent’s open house.
My sweet, highly organized sister, Debi – a saint in every way – came to my rescue. She appeared at my door with a smile and genuine care and energy to spare, and helped me all afternoon. What would I ever do without her?
I am one lucky woman. I am reminded of that at every turn.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.