When I look back at my relationship with my sister, there were all sorts of signs that she wasn’t the person I thought she was. I just failed at recognizing her for who she was. It was as though I had googles on and I had this distorted view of her personality. Then when she moved out, the googles fell off and I was seeing who she was for the first time and I didn’t recognize that person. When I talked about her behaviour with other people, they were not surprised at the things she was saying and doing because she had always behaved that way, I just never saw it.
And that is why when she said and did the things she said and did, I was surprised, hurt, bewildered, flabbergasted, angry and confused. It’s taken a long time to process these feelings. For a long time I held onto the hope that the person I always believed her to be would reemerge but that never happened, simply because the person I thought she was never existed.
When she and my niece first moved out, I expected the boys to be invited to a sleepover relatively quickly. The boys were expecting to be invited to a sleep over. They were so excited about it. It was one of the things that made the idea of my sister and niece moving away easier to process for the boys. They took some comfort in the idea of these sleepovers because the idea of a sleepover reinforced the belief that they weren’t really severing connections with my niece. She had been a part of their life for every day since their birth, and now she was going away. And that was hard for them to understand. By adding in something fun like a sleepover, the sting of the separation did not hurt so bad.
The invitation never came. Not once. Summer came and went. Weekend after weekend passed. We were hearing stories of my niece’s friends spending nights on end but the boys were never asked to spend the night*. The year went on and there was never an invitation. Even when the boys asked to spend the night, she would tell them they couldn’t stay that night, they could come another night. It’s been two years now and the boys have never been asked to spend the night.
Not of it made any sense.
Then I realized (quite recently actually) what I was expecting her to do wasn’t what she wanted to do. She was the person who would tell me she would only babysit my boys if I bathed them, fed them and put them to bed. If I happened to not bathe them, feed them or put them to bed before she started watching them, she wouldn’t do any of those things. There were times when I came home late to find out that she let the boys have chips and candy for dinner and they were still awake. Making frozen chicken nuggets, a sandwich or ordering a pizza was just too much work. I had to either make food or buy food and leave it because even though she was capable of making them dinner, she wouldn’t. She was the person who told me to make sure I bring food to her house because she wasn’t going to cook. Just like that; “don’t expect me to cook when you’re here, make sure you bring food”. She wanted to do the bare minimum. I had to fend for myself and my kids. She isn’t like this with everyone. It’s just with my us.
This is when my mistake became evident.
Having a sleepover is something we would have done. We would have invited my niece to spend the night before anyone else. We would have invited her over because we would have wanted there. We would have tried to keep her and the boys connected. We would have tried.
Now I see things for what they really are. She wanted the separation. She wanted to do the bare minimum when it came to babysitting my kids so why would I expect her to invite them to sleep over at her house. A sleep over will never happen, it was never going to happen. It was something that was promised in vain, with no intention of following through. It was said to keep the boys quiet. Make them the promise so they stop asking but never follow through on it. Hopefully in time, they would forget.
I just wish it didn’t take me two years to see this.
At this point I wouldn’t let the boys sleep over even if a sleep over request were to materialize. It’s been two summers, being asked to sleep over now would be the result of outside intervention. It would be something she did because she had to, in order to appease her perceived obligations. it is not something she wanted to do because if she wanted to do it, it would have happened two summers ago.
*apparently she asked my then eight year old in passing if he wanted to spend the night one weekend about a year and a half ago. No specifics were ever given, “just you wanna spend the night here one day” kind of thing. He said he would but she had to ask me. She never asked me. It was something she said to keep him quiet. I only found out about this three months ago.