real life

Snide remarks and silent treatment: My sister's hostility towards my kids has ruined our relationship.

After you have kids, you kind of expect that most relationships in your life will change. In fact, most of mine have. 

While some of my oldest friendships have strengthened, some withered into mutual parental oblivion, and were replaced with new friendships formed throughout my children’s school years. 

As expected, even the relationships with my in-laws have morphed over time, wonderful on occasions, yet sometimes awful and testing. 

The relationship that has become most strained however, is the one with my own sister.

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I don’t know how many times I’ve been told I’m so lucky to have an older sister. 

A sister who was forced to wear matching outfits and piggy tails with me. A sister who was encouraged to hold my hand crossing the road. A sister who babysat me while my parents worked long hours and school holidays. A sister who threatened to beat up anyone who did me wrong.

Even still, I always felt like an annoying little pest. A burden, interfering with her ‘big girl’ plans. 

I’d say the majority of us are brought up with the notion that family comes first. Blood is thicker than water. 

We make excuses for poor or toxic behaviour toward us. We’re told family members should attempt to get along no matter what and be forgiven of every misdemeanour against us. At least, that is the way I have been brought up.  

My sister and I have never had the strongest bond, partly due to age difference but also because we are two very different personalities and with opposing views on many life matters.

So, when I was the first to settle down and have a baby it wasn’t a surprise to anyone in our family or for either of our friendship circles. 

Getting married and having children was a part of life I had always strived for, whereas my sister had made it known early on that neither children nor marriage, would complete hers. 

That is exactly the way our lives panned out. Me, the family girl, and my sister, the professional single. When I fell pregnant though, it didn’t take long before the excitement of being an aunt set in for her. 

And I was happy that I finally felt like I had a sister who was interested in me and my life. 

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When my first was born, though she was in no way motherly still, she loved spoiling her new little niece. And as my family grew to include a handful of children, we always accepted her lovingly into our home. We shared pretty much every family occasion with her. 

As my children got older, and my family and work demand increased, her life remained the same. 

She remained in a career she didn’t love; she didn’t date and her childbearing years passed by. Though she professed that she was happier that way, over the last few years, I began to notice her becoming more hostile toward me and my children. Resentful almost.

Snide remarks would be made when I wasn’t able to talk to her on the phone and cook and help with homework at the same time, or when we weren’t available on her ‘usual’ visit day because we had weekend sports or three birthday parties to go to. 

If we spent a special occasion with my in-laws instead of her, I would get the silent treatment. Or when my children didn’t answer her texts, they were scolded or made to feel guilty. 

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Yet the ‘family is family’ guilt would set in and I would tolerate her hostility, rudeness and verbal lashings for the sake of the children. 

Even the times she made me feel like I was a bad mother. Because she was their aunt, and the only children she had a deep relationship with. 

When COVID hit, it hit everyone hard, but for those living alone, I can’t even envision what it’d be like. 

For I can’t fathom what it would be like to wake up and not have my husband and children to keep me going during this time.

I lived for a number of years on my own in my youth and for me personally, they weren’t my best, which is why I am empathetic toward anyone who is living alone during this pandemic. 

So, I tried. I tried to put up with the hostility and the anger vented toward me and the kids (which would escalate the more alcohol she drank) until I realised her behaviour wasn’t justified. 

Even though she is my sister and their aunt, and though I feel terrible about the timing of it all, it was time to create space between us for a while. 

When I see sisters who share a beautiful bond, it makes me sad. Sad that my sister and I will never have that special union, or that we will never raise children alongside each other. 

You just can’t force relationships, particularly as adults, and you simply can’t put up with family treating you badly just because they feel they can. 

I am hoping one day that our relationship will heal somewhat, but until then I’ve realised that sisterhood doesn’t only exist within the confines of family, some girlfriends too will make you feel that special bond. 

Feature Image: Getty.