Spoiler alert: You can’t.
I learned this the hard way.
Being the first born has its perks, but it also comes with responsibility. A responsibility that for a long time I thought I had squandered. I was not a good example for my little sisters growing up. I was the wild child who drank, smoked, partied too hard, dealt with boys in a promiscuous manner, all while my 12 and 15-year-old sisters watched from the sidelines. And even after this phase of my life was over, I still held onto an immense amount of guilt and shame. I jumped into an extremely unhealthy relationship when I was 17 and stayed in it until I was 19. This is generally a very delicate time in most people’s lives that I gave up to be abused emotionally and physically. After I finally found the courage to leave him, I reflected on how this ugly mess could be used for God’s purpose. And indeed, there was good to be found in the wreckage of my soul. However, up until a few days ago I still stood in shame’s shadow, being tortured by the fact that I had failed my baby sisters.
When I found out that my middle sister was going to spend New Year’s Eve in Tahoe with some (gasp!) boys, I immediately attempted to sabotage her night, to no avail. I told her that I did not want her to have made the same mistakes I did when I was eighteen. She laughed and said she would not be making those same mistakes. How could she be so certain?
She proceeded to tell me about a journal entry she wrote when she was fifteen which she had come across recently. She told me that in this entry she consciously noted the consequences I was facing in light of my abusive relationship and swore to be cautious about opening her heart to someone. I was floored. Even though I thought I had failed as a big sister, it was precisely these “failures” that showed Sierra and Sloane how to guard their hearts. I did not want Sierra to make my mistakes, and I don’t think either of them ever will. In fact, they will make their own mistakes, and I will be right there for them to fulfil the role as their big sister when they do. I think that even in my lowest times, I was still fulfilling the role of big sister because they were learning through my pain. I would go through that same pain one hundred more times just to know that they won’t make the same mistakes.