My sister and I are the closest in age out of all our siblings, and for the longest time I have been “responsible” for her BUT what I sometimes forget is that although I am her big sister she is a FULL grown up!
Growing up, we were the closest, our mom used to dress us alike because we are only 1 year apart and for the longest time people thought we were twins. We did everything together, slept in the same room, wore the same clothes, went to the same schools, ate the same food, and we are so similar BUT yet so different. You see as the eldest daughter in a Yoruba household, you are basically the first and your siblings are your responsibility. I remember being in university when my exasperated momma called me frantically because she had found out my sister has pierced her nose….somehow I got questions like, “how did you allow her to do this”, “where were you when this happened” as if to say you were in charge, how did you let this happen on your watch. All older siblings understand this responsibility and we take it in stride lol…..Although the sentiment was always "look after your sister" somewhere along the road, my sister became an adult and our relationship evolved without me fully knowing it.
At her bridal shower that I MC’d – side note, if you are looking for a virtual bridal shower host look no further lol; her friends and family all said very similar things. Ibilola is very cool, calm and collected, she is the literal personification of the meme “drinking my water and minding my business”, she is the “STRONG” friend, the ultimate shade catcher (if you know you know lol). What most people don’t know about her, is that Ibilola LOVES so very DEEPLY and CARES A LOT about the people in her life. She gives EVERYBODY the benefit of a doubt although she “minds her business and drinks her water, she is also very much invested in the growth of others because she wants them to succeed. Our biggest similarity is that we FEEL DEEPLY but our biggest difference is that I express it out loud(hence this blog) but Ibilola is very internal which means sometimes it can be missed by the untrained eye.
When my sister got engaged, I was BEYOND over the moon, because it meant she could express her love for her now-husband out loud and begin a life that will be marked with great LOVE. As I broke the news on social media, I had a lot of people excited, but there were a few comments directed to me in the tune of “are you ok?”, “how do you feel” and I didn’t quite understand it. What I came to know is that because my sister is younger than me, her getting married before me a “SINGLE PRINGLE” meant that I should feel some type of way (jealous or sad perhaps) according to some Nigerian Aunties, friends, and family. The reality is, I HONESTLY did not feel any way at first but when you hear it over and over, you start to think, “should I feel like this?” “Are people out there thinking poor Ibiyemi?” but those thoughts left as quickly as they came in BUT not without a life lesson.
What is this lesson you ask, well let me paint a picture. In the last 2-3 years, I have missed my sister so dearly, and I think it stems from me feeling insecure in our relationship. Insecure because she was heading into a stage of life I hadn’t been in and therefore didn’t know how to help her with….. So much of our relationship was grounded on me helping her because she is my responsibility and so far in my life, I had “gotten there first”. I went to school first and she followed, I moved schools and she followed, I moved countries (shout out to Canada) and she followed, I got a job first and she followed. Suddenly she was at a juncture of her life where she “got there first” and I felt inadequate to provide her with what she needed because I’m a “SINGLE PRINGLE” and instead of leaning in, I became distant….only really checking in when I could “help”. I didn’t even know I was doing this, and it resulted in me subconsciously losing out on my first friend, my goofing around person, my non-judgemental confidant who would always be the “strong one” when I was the “sensitive one” - the ying to my yang. I told myself it was distance (she lives in Nigeria, I live in Canada – there are 8920km away), that we had grown apart, that I was too emotional and therefore awkward and I didn’t know what to say when all I wanted to do was just BE THERE. I had forgotten about our great friendship that I was effectively losing because of my perceived inability to “provide help”. I felt I couldn’t speak into her life the way I had been able to do before because I didn’t “get there first”.
It’s no surprise that when she asked me to be her maid of honor, I cried like a baby in my therapist's office because WOW my sister needs me, she loves me, she trusts me, we can be closer. She doesn’t know this BUT I was so honored to be asked, that I started this year off with a weight loss goal and a fitness journey because I wanted to be physically healthy to help my sister through this journey of her weddings. If you know anything about Nigerian weddings, they are physically, mentally, and emotionally draining to plan and I was determined to be by her side through it ALL. So when this pandemic hit, and I knew I was going to be stuck in Canada, I was devastated and I didn’t even realize it because I kept thinking “it’s not your wedding”, “it’s not about you”, “be a good sister and make sure that SHE is fine”. I didn’t get to go dress shopping with her, didn’t get to go with her to try out her makeup, couldn’t be there in person for her bridal shower and wasn’t there when she said “I do”…..it’s times like this, that I wonder why I chose to live apart from my family and whether or not it is worth it. I was dealing with the loss of not being there physically with her all the while thinking, “will she know how much I love her”, “will she know that I tried to be there”, “will she know I pray for her every day”, “will she know that I’m sorry for being so far away”, “will she know this”. I am soooo happy for my sister’s in-law Ijeoma and Tutu for being there for her, for physically taking up space in her life, for being in her day to day, and for helping her through this journey.
Ibilola darling – (lol that was weird), I LOVE YOU and I MISS YOU and I AM SO BEYOND happy for you and that you have found a man that loves you just as much if not more than we “the Baloguns” do. We are so VERY proud of you and SO excited for this next chapter in your life, I know without a shadow of a doubt that you are going to be an amazing, wife and mother because you are an amazing sister and daughter. Ibilola, open up, speak up, use your voice, tell your story, don’t let anyone keep you silent NOT even yourself, feel deeply, and express it clearly. You know how they always say, check on your “strong friend” because sometimes they need the most help, well I vow to always check-in, but I also know that although I see you as my baby sister, you are a FULLY grown woman and my best friend and now Vic’s wife but most importantly you are God’s daughter and don’t you ever forget it. Vic, Vic, Vic? How many times did I call your name? This is my precious, strong, stoic Ibilola, take care of her, listen to her, don’t back down when she says “I'm good” when you know she’s not, nurture her, pray for her, keep her safe. I am so excited for the next chapter and best believe, the reception at Christmas is going to be LIT LIT but most importantly it’s going to be FULL of LOVE.
I love you both, welcome to the family Vic, and welcome to marriage Ibilola.