Growing up with four brothers and a neighbourhood full of boys, I dreamed of having a sister. Though I didn’t mind playing with boys and quite enjoyed their boisterous, adventurous spirit, there were times I longed for a sister to confide in, to share my feelings, worries, hopes and fears with.
The closest I had to a sister was my cousin. As children and teenagers we were very close and though we had our fair share of spats, we knew we could always rely on each other when it mattered.
I was finally blessed with two sisters of my own when I was in my teens and my father remarried and had two more daughters. While I didn’t see much of my sisters initially – they were much younger than me and we lived in different countries – I’ve since formed a strong bond with them.
I’m now a mother to two girls and watching these two sisters interact with each other, I am growing ever convinced of the importance of sisterhood.
Of course, my daughters fight a lot, and complain about each other at times but there’s no mistaking the love they have for each other. If one of them is told off by my husband or me, the other is quick to come to her defence. They have each other’s back.
Sisterhood isn’t limited to actual siblings, but can equally involve friends, other groups of sisters, etc.
This week, for example, while on holiday in Tenerife, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to observe my daughters growing increasingly close to a trio of sisters and their good friend, all of whom they know from school back home. That’s another kind of sisterhood in the making.
We all need sisters to share our experiences, feelings and thoughts with, whether we’re young girls, teenagers or grown women in our forties. We need sisters from whom we can draw strength and receive comfort.
Unfortunately, girls and women can too often be mean and excluding towards one another. As an adult, I’ve found it hard at times to confide in other women for fear that they might turn on me, or talk behind my back.
I’ve had friends who were a great comfort to me when I was unhappy but seemed incapable of being happy for me when my life was going well. It was as if they thrived on my unhappiness.
Now and then, my 9-year old comes home from school sad and confused, and asks me, ‘how come some girls are friendly one day only to be mean the next?’
I wish I had a good answer for her, but I don’t. I do believe, however, that much of girls’ behaviour stems from what they see, hear and experience at home.
So as mothers we need to be modelling behaviour that is inclusive, accepting of others’ differences and non-judgemental. We need to teach our daughters the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness.
The occasional argument and disagreement is part of life, of course, and sisters know that. But whatever happens, they’ll have each other’s back.