• Lydia Chu

What it means to have a sister

I grew up with three brothers and one sister. We are all almost exactly 2 years apart. I have two older brothers, a younger sister and a younger brother. My sister is 21 months younger than me and I am the middle child.

Birthday dinner at Beast & Bounty

Growing up, I constantly fought with my brothers but not much with my sister. Looking back, I think it was because my brothers were the ones getting most of the attention, and I was vying for some of that attention. Since my sister and I were the girls in the family, we were treated like a second class or at least that's how I felt. Whatever we did, my brothers always came first. Like most traditional Korean parents, my parents doted on the sons and valued them more than the daughters.

I remember thinking how unfair it was for my brothers to do less chores, get more allowance money, get more food, more attention, and most of all, more love. I struggled with this all my life. No matter how I looked at it, it just didn't seem fair. It felt like I was being punished for something that wasn't my fault. I know my parents were doing their best the way they know how and I don't blame them. It's an old tradition that has been passed down for generations. We were all victims of our culture including my parents.

So, when I had my girls, I was determined to do things differently. I wanted to do everything I could to love them equally and treat them fairly the very best I could. I never wanted my girls to go through what I went through growing up, feeling unimportant and being shamed of who I am.

Like most first-time parents, I had no idea how to be a good parent. Raising two girls nineteen months apart was no easy task. It was also a time of financial hardship for my first husband and I. I was working around the clock resorting to taking the young infants to work with me so I can take care of them while I worked. Those were very stressful years.

March 1st was my older daughter Hannah's 18th birthday. My husband and I returned from our trip to Thailand two days before her birthday. Although, we came back early, Hannah wasn't home to celebrate her 18th birthday with us. She was in Catalina Island, just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. She was on a school trip with her classmates for 4 days and was suppose to return before midnight on her birthday.

On the day of Hannah's birthday, my younger daughter, Ally, made some arrangements to get her sister a birthday cake and a present all on her own so they would be ready when Hannah got home. Ally mentioned that she had missed Hannah very much and was looking forward to having her back. She wanted to make sure we didn't miss her sister's 18th birthday.

Few hours before Hannah was scheduled to arrive home, we found out that there was a delay in the bus schedule. She wasn't going to be home until after 1 am which meant she was going to miss her birthday. Despite the fact that it was going to be very late at night, Ally was determined to wait up for her and be there to pick her up when she came home. By this time, Ally had facetimed her sister to wish her "Happy Birthday". She said, "I wasn't going to not see her on her birthday". I was deeply moved by her thoughtfulness and the amount of love she had for her sister.

Hannah finally came home around 1:30 am. After we picked her up and came home, we took out the cake that Ally had picked out (Chocolate mousse cake that Hannah likes according to Ally) to sing "Happy Birthday" in our kitchen at 2 am in the morning. After

blowing out the candles, Ally presented her sister with a gift she had bought earlier and a special hand-made birthday card. What?? Where did this come from? It was one of those moments where I wanted to take her by the shoulders and say "Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?" Kidding aside, I know you might be thinking that I'm underestimating my daughter and this might be a normal thing for sisters to do for each other, but let me explain why I was so pleasantly surprised that led me to writing this blog.

In the past, whenever I would tell my girls to make cards for people on special occasions (we usually don't buy cards just because I believe it's more special to make them & saves money at the same time), it was usually Hannah who would put the effort in making the cards and writing special notes. Typically, Ally would just sign the cards with a very short message. Sometimes, even that was a lot of work. It was almost like forcing someone to do something they don't want to do and it probably was.

When my girls were younger, I did everything I could to encourage a strong and loving sibling relationship that would last forever. They didn't fight a whole lot but had their share of ups and downs. Since they were only a grade apart in school, they usually attended the same schools. Even so, they would never ride or walk to school together and tried to avoid each other as much as they could. They would always ride by themselves or with their own friends but never together. Ally was always the more independent one and chose to do things on her own. Being the older sister, Hannah was always very protective of her younger sister. When they were at home, they usually got along fine with occasional fights but outside the home, they usually had their separate lives. This concerned me a great deal and I was worried that they might end up like I did with my siblings or my parent's siblings.

My father who had eight other siblings had a very strain relationship with his siblings especially my uncle who was my father's youngest brother. Their relationship was so strained that they ended up not talking to each other for about 30 years before my uncle passed away from cancer about 15 years ago. None of us were invited to his funeral nor were notified. We only found out later through another family member that he had passed away.

As far as my relationship with my siblings? Two of my younger siblings live close by and we get along fine, but it's never been a close relationship especially with my younger sister. Even though I only have one sister, and we hardly ever fought growing up, we had never developed a close relationship. Even though she and her family live two blocks down from our house, we rarely see each other except for the holidays. There isn't any obvious animosity between my sister and I, and we try to help each other in any way we can but we are not as close as we would like to be.

My younger brother lives about 40 minutes away and we see each other occasionally and on holidays, but as far as my two older brothers go, the relationship is almost non-existent. I have one brother that I haven't talk to in about 4 years. We just seem to have grown apart after we left for college, and more so after everyone got married and had their own families.

So, my girl's relationship with each other became extremely important to me, and since I

loved them both, I couldn't bare the thought of them not getting along. I wanted them to have that special bond that I never had with my siblings, and It was painful for me to think that they would ever grow apart and not be part of each other's lives.

So, on Hannah's 18th birthday, when Ally presented her sister with a home-made birthday card, not only was I surprised but very moved by the touching letter she wrote to her sister. Her message to her sister was loud and clear. She loved her sister dearly and was going to miss her when she goes away to college. It was one of the most endearing letters I have ever read. After being allowed to read her card, I was envious and deeply touched by the love she had for her sister. It was a beautiful loving moment between two sisters that I would never forget. Whether there was something I had done or didn't do, it was my proud moment as a parent and I couldn't have been more proud. I hope their loving relationship would carry them through the rest of their lives..



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