From the moment that Megan was born and joined a fifteen month old Eva, their roles as Big sister and Little Sister were very much set in stone. Both of them accepted these roles, and conformed to them in a way that saw Eva very much “The Boss” of the two and Megan, a compliant, adoring little sister. As time has passed I have found it interesting to see how the roles have evolved, and now, as Megan approaches her third birthday and with Eva just four, it feels that in many ways, the roles have completely reversed.
With the closure of Megan’s nursery last week, she has now joined Eva at the pre-school where they are both attending for fifteen hours each week. The girls were super excited to be at the same nursery with Eva promising to look after Megan, introduce her to all of her friends, and show her all of the exciting things that they could do there. “I hope that the teachers know which one is me and which one is Meggy!” Eva worried, “Make sure that you tell them before we go in!”. And I smiled to myself, amused at how the two of them see each other, a mirror image, completely unaware of their differences both in appearance and in nature.
So on Monday when I collected them from their first day back, I was surprised by how subdued Eva was on the walk home, so very different from the excited squeals when I had dropped them there that morning. “What’s wrong, baby?” I asked her, as she snuggled up on my knee that night, “Did something happen at nursery?”
“Meggy wouldn’t play with me,” Eva whimpered, her eyes brimming with tears, “She only wanted to play with Lucy.”
On hearing her name Megan dragged her eyes away from ‘In the night garden’ and glanced over at us, “Eva, I play with Lucy!” she said, a serious look on her face, “Lucy is my best friend!”
At that point Eva threw back her head and cried, clinging to me as she sobbed dramatically against my chest. And I felt a lump rise in my throat, torn between feeling so proud of Megan and the way in which she was finally forging friendships, gaining her independence and developing her much needed social skills, but at the same time my heart was breaking for Eva, who sat there whimpering, feeling as though she was losing her little sister, that her Meggy was no longer her best friend.
Because Megan was always very much the one who needed Eva, who fought for her affection and idolised her as they grew. Megan really struggled with so many aspects of life, with new places, new people, and her fear of just about everything. She had learned to draw strength from Eva, to use Eva as her voice when she chose not to speak, to hide behind her, to ride on the wave of her successes and follow suite with her own choices. And yet somehow, in the blink of an eye, she has changed unrecognisably, finally gaining her confidence and with that her independence. No longer are they simply Eva and Meggy, they have both developed and grown, been given the opportunity to make their own friends, and ultimately discovered a life that does not always necessarily involve each other.
And for Eva, although she has made some lovely friendships of her own, she really struggles with the fact that Megan no longer depends on her in the same way. Far more jealous by nature, I think that Eva quite enjoyed having Megan rely so heavily on her and thrived under the title of ‘Big Sister’, and all that came with it. Every morning she took great pride in preparing Megan’s cereal, in carefully pouring her milk, fetching her spoon, all the while telling her, “I’ll do this Megan, I’m the big sister!”. And yet now, I notice more and more the way in which Megan wants to do those things for herself, how she pushes Eva away when she tries to help her, unaware of the dejected look on her sisters face. I see how Eva now fights for Megans affection, seeking her out for a kiss or a cuddle, the constant need for reassurance that she is still Meggy’s favourite, that their bond as sisters is still just as strong as it once was.
There was a time when Megan would have done just about anything for Eva. She would give up her toys, the prime spot on the couch, share her biscuit, her chocolate bar, anything to win her affection. These days Megan is no pushover, she no longer gives in to Eva’s constant demands or panders to her every need. She will push Eva away when she wants to be left alone, scream at her to stop talking when she wants some peace and quiet, and will think nothing of giving her whack if she tries to get her own way. And it’s difficult at times to watch them argue and fight, but equally I think that it’s important to let them battle it out between themselves, to allow them to try to find a happy medium, to negotiate a relationship that sees them more as equals rather than the Big Sister and Little Sister.
Because Megan is no longer the timid, frightened little sister that she once was. Soon to be three, she is opinonated, fiery and out right bad tempered at times. There are days when she tires of Evas hugs and kisses, when she doesn’t want to play the games that Eva chooses, nor do what Eva tells her. And Eva struggles to understand why their roles have now changed, why Megan is suddenly standing up to her, why all of a sudden she has the confidence to do her own thing, to leave her side and pave her own way, even if that means leaving her behind.
And yet on Monday, when Eva sat, still crying noisily, on my knee, it did not surprise me when Meggy looked over at Eva and her face crumpled with surprise, “What’s wrong Eva?” she asked, coming over to sit beside her sister.
“You didn’t play with me!” Eva spat out, resentfully, refusing to meet her sisters eyes.
“Eva, dry your eyes,” Megan told her, “You’re still my big sister, okay?”. And, as Eva allowed Megan to throw her arms around her and squeeze her tight, I blinked back the tears in my eyes, the innocence of my beautiful girls bringing a lump to my throat.
“Are we still best friends?” Eva asked, her lip quivering as she awaited the response.
“Yes Eva, forever and ever and ever!” Megan assured her, and I brushed away my own tears as the girls planted kisses on each others cheeks, their heads together, their bodies interlocked and they settled down to watch the television, safe in the knowledge that their friendship was still as strong as ever.
For there are going to be times like this as they grow, so many that I am sure I will lose count, when Eva starts primary school, goes to high school, to college, to university, and leaves her sister behind. There will be times when one, or both, will make new friends who they would rather spend their time with, when they discover boyfriends and no longer have time for their sister. When they move away, when they marry, when they have families of their own to look after, there is so much more ahead of them than ‘just’ each other.
And I will always continue to encourage my girls to be their own person, to have their own friendship, their own personalities and interests. I will encourage them to be just Eva, and just Megan, to be sisters that are equal, that come together as well as apart. But I will continue to support their bond as sisters, building the foundations for the most beautiful of friendships, and I am confident that regardless of how many friends come in and out of their life, there will never be a friend quite like a sister. Eva and Meggy, besties forever.