“You just don’t understand what it’s like to be me; you don’t even remember what it’s like to be ten” is a phrase that I’m hearing a lot at the moment. It’s often thrown at me from the passenger seat of the car, and usually accompanied by a high pitched whining sound, that I can only assume is there for effect.
If we’re at home, it might also include a flounce as she spins away and storms off down the hallway towards her bedroom. Slamming the door, while the picture frames that line the walls on either side shake in agreement. Or fear. I’m not sure which.
Sometimes it’s an issue with friends at school that sets it off. Other times it’s because I’ve dared asked her to do her homework. Or take her washing from her bedroom floor to the laundry. Or wash. Or eat. Or pretty much anything actually.
So goes the life of the misunderstood tween.
What she doesn’t realise is that I remember rather well what it’s like to be ten. And my tale of woe is far greater than hers (because everything is a competition). I had a four year old sister, so everything I did, I had to do with her. She was my biggest fan and my most annoying detractor.
After being an only child for my first six years, this interruption to my time with my parents, and the whole sharing thing, was quite an adjustment. I think I’m over it now, but you know, I’m now 33.
I remember once I was quietly playing in the lounge room and she came in and starting crying, screaming I’d hurt her. While I tried to work out what was happening, mum snapped into gear and sent me to my room.
As I watched from the bedroom, burning and furious at the injustice of it all; my sister sat quietly playing the toys that I was using just moments before, with a sly grin on her face. Job done.
She’ll claim I did things like lock her out of the house, or make her eat dog food. Whatever. Surely that’s the job of an older sibling?
The year I was ten was also the year we spent a term in Queensland. Turning brown in the sun like two little berries; we took to the Queensland life like naturals. I got my first bikini and learnt how to stand up paddle board.
My sister learnt how to swim out under the board, slick and agile like a tiny porpoise, without me knowing and tip me off.
It was also the year that my parents split up. We went from a family of four, to a family of three, but in two separate houses. Most of our time with Mum, some of our time with Dad. Country life with Mum, city life with Dad.
The two of us sisters together, a comforting constant at both homes. I remember feeling like I needed to protect her; be the brave one, the sister who knew the answers, bluffing my way through and trying to bite back the frustration that I couldn’t just be at home, with my friends.
I also remember that turning ten seemed to be the start of slamming doors, stomping feet and I’m sure that I made the photo frames on the wall shake more than once. I whined at my mum on a regular basis, and complained about just about everything.
And I’m pretty sure I accused her frequently of not understanding me.
Because so goes the life of the misunderstood tween.