My Decade Late Lifelong (Play)mate: Of Age Gaps and Sibling Traps

At age 10, I pretty much lost all hopes of having a little sister whose hair I was going to braid and play or watch Barbie with.

My teenage years were just about to take off when my little sister, Iyah Cornelia, was born. Mom and Dad loved me so much that they asked for an additional version of me in their life.

God, and Mother Nature, finally answered our prayers.

Although an age gap of a decade or more is considered unusual, adjusting to the new addition to our family was not difficult. I’ve had no competition for 13 years and was more than welcome to share all the occurrences that come with being my parents’ daughter.


I was prepared for more freedom as I shared and “passed on” years’ worth of our parents love and support.

We equally got a chance at being the center of Mom and Dad’s worlds. We both got our fair share of photo and video keepsakes (more for Iyah though, thanks to the rise of digital cameras). Each of us had time to form strong relationships with our parents and was spoiled in our own way.

The cost of childcare was spread. Having children in general isn’t cheap, but we were blessed to have parents who provided our needs and our sporadic wants. At least they got some sort of financial break in between, especially when it came to education and University expenses.

Milestones like graduation, first communions and birthdays are so far apart that we get the pleasure of witnessing and enjoying each other’s successes to the fullest.


Judgy people frequently assumed my little sister was my child anytime we’d be out in public together. Rather than getting annoyed or grumpy at them, I’d make it a point to make my voice loud enough for an eavesdrop-worthy conversation: “Stop it or I’m telling MOM.” With a GREAT emphasis on the word Mom. That default sentence practically screams “No, she is not my offspring,“ and seeing their “Oh. My bad,” faces always felt like winning Oscar awards.

She has grown quite a bit since I last used that line.

In the early years, my relationship with my sibling felt more parental. Her baby-toddler years were one of the best; I loved showing off her adorable-ness as much as I could. And I loved being the reason behind her tiny giggles. I felt like a younger, more impatient and naive, version of my mom whenever I was on babysitting duty.

But don’t get me wrong, I also frequently basked in the glory of being the one “in charge”. *insert evil laugh here*

Did you not hear about that one golden rule of sisterhood? “Ask not what your big sister can do for you, but what you can for your big sister.” Kidding.

As mentioned in Seventeen : As the older sibling, you ran a carpool service, babysitting business, and tutoring job. And you didn’t get paid for any of it, because your big bosses were your parents.

Having this big age gap between us was practically a free-trial on motherhood. It helps in developing dedication that comes with becoming a parent. It helped me picture out how and what I wanted my future to be like — and it was an honest reminder for me that if I couldn’t handle my little sister, I probably wasn’t ready to have one of my own anytime soon either. Not that I was planning on it.


We had no problem with sharing… 95 percent of the time. At least we wouldn’t be sharing the same clothes and same toys. She is now turning 10 and in fifth grade. I’m 23 and I’ve graduated from college two years ago. In our case, some hand-me-down traditions still apply, including gadgets I’ve grown out of, which she can start practicing with as a welcoming “gift” to this techy world.

Here’s one thing that probably REALLY sets us apart though:

I am 13 years her senior, yet her shoe size triumphs over mine. Give it a few more years and she’ll be passing on hand-me-ups to me.

Decade-long age gap or not, there will always be fights and arguments between siblings. We were lucky to have totally avoided physical fights that include pulling on each other’s pigtails, decapitating each other’s dolls and having a full on brawl regarding whose turn it was to use whatever toy it is we shared. We do play-wrestle occasionally though.


She has a different set of friends than I do. Her interests aren’t exactly the same as mine, but we respect them nevertheless.

We both love reading, and I’m extremely proud of the fact that she’s inherited my talent of being able to finish a book in a day or two.

Our TV shows and movies are rarely ever on the same page (and channel), so thank God for the internet and YouTube. Some days I am excited to show her movies she hasn’t seen, but think she will like, or vice versa.

As I get older, she will eventually help keep me in touch with what’s “in” or the latest trends — my resource for “cool” new things. We may have grown up in different generations, but we try to balance each other out.

I won’t deny that I am envious of all the fun she gets by being a kid while I’m still trying to figure out “how to adult”. But I also cannot wait until she’s old enough to talk about make-up, fashion, and other typical teenage stuff. Either way, she has no choice but to consider (she better!) and listen (if she wants to) to my advice because dear sister, I’ve been there, done that, too.

She is a wish granted for my parents and me — 13 years overdue, but never too late. Our parents literally made us for each other. Being an older sister may be demanding, but it’s rewarding beyond doubt. Being able to watch her grow up, and actually remembering the little details, is one of the greatest feelings ever. Plus, I get to taunt and blackmail her about them when she gets older.

And most of all, being sisters is assurance enough that we will both remain half child and half woman as long as we have each other.


She rarely ever lets me braid her hair.

“You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.”
George R.R. Martin
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