The Seven Year Difference

By Gena Sysavath
Web Content Contributor

My parents came to America with hope and a role. Their hope really was that I was able to grow up, go to school and become successful. Like my parents, they took the role very seriously and I grew up in a very classic Asian household.

There are some very cliché stereotypes that I have lived through. My parents did expect the best from me; therefore, I always came home with an ‘A’ or a ‘B’. I always did ask permission to go out or to go do something and if I lied, there would be consequences. Also, I did eat some very weird and “smelly” cuisines, at least I got some culture in me. My parents always seemed to be stricter than most of my friend’s parents, but they were always fair.

If I wanted something, I was taught that I would have to earn it. So, as I got older, I would do chores or study hard and my parents would reward me with something that I had begged for.

The Nintendo DS? Six months of chores and a semester of straight A’s. That DVD player in my room? I did whatever I was told to do for who knows how long. That 1st Generation iPod? Oof, literal years of asking and behaving.

Honestly, the way I earned the electronics and gadgets that I wanted; I think it’s fair. You reap what you sow. I personally think it was a good lesson. Sure, I wished that they were less strict, but I also understood that they were immigrants and the way they were surviving in America was all due to hard work. They wanted me to understand early on that hard work is how you are to survive.

I never questioned my parents when I was younger. I never had a reason to. That is until at the age of seven, my little sister, Angela, came into existence.

First things first, Angela, whom I had assumed to be a boy in the womb and was never corrected when I said so, was indeed, a girl. When I entered the hospital and became one of the last family members to meet my sibling, to say that I was disappointed was probably an understatement.

“Where’s his ding-dong?”

It didn’t exist.

Angela and I. Image by Gena Sysavath.

So, Angela and me? We did not have a great start. I am seven years older than her and she was a baby who didn’t understand the words “shut up.” We had nothing in common.  I did not like her. I’m pretty sure I called “little diablo” for the longest time.

It did not help that as she got older, she developed an attitude. My mother, like all mothers, loved to nag me. And Angela loved to mimic everything our mother did. Made a mistake? Nag. Talk back? Nag. Do nothing? NAG.

I couldn’t get away from the nagging. I’m not going to lie; I was not the greatest “big” sister as we got older. I just didn’t want the role; I was doing so well as an only child. Then a she-demon was suddenly born into the family and took my place. So, as a child, I was jealous of the baby.

In elementary school, I purposely did not get along with my sister. She was just so annoying to me for some reason, always bothering me and getting in my way. In middle school, I pretended that she didn’t exist, I would only talk to her if she asks me a question or I was told to watch her and other little demons. At the beginning of high school, I had somewhat matured and would be neutral with my sister. I’ll defend her if I needed to, but we still weren’t that close.

In my defense, through these years, I had called my sister a little she-devil for a reason. Her personality was truly deplorable, she seemed to have mimic all the bad qualities both our parents had and used that to her advantage. She got almost everything she wanted, just for asking. While I would consistently get in trouble for doing absolutely nothing.

However, Angela really changed once puberty happened. It seemed that she slowly was getting into her “I hate my parents” phase and the only person she can seem to talk to about it was me. I was her older, teenage sister, who had already gone through the trial and errors that our parents had forced upon us.

Once in her middle school year, she changed her personality in the family so quickly. What she did was copy-and-pasted my personality and made it spicier. She was a smaller and sassier mini-me and I created this monster for my parents.

At this point, the fun had begun. My sister and I are now a team and we have done our parents so dirty. I don’t even think our parents could even keep up with us when we teamed up. Her sass-level? Through the roof. I did not have the guts to call out our parents the way she does now.

Nowadays, we buy each other food. If we’re near each other? We’re going on a car adventure. We gossip and discuss like it’s nobody’s business. If she needs any advice? I’ll listen. If I need to get something off my chest? She’s there to hype me up. We may be seven years apart, but I think we would be any closer if that wasn’t the case.

My role now is to be the voice of reason. I’m now always the mediator of the family, it seems that Angela has captured my temper but instead of festering it, as I did, she comes out with a lot of bark and a lot of bites. I have to say though, I’m proud of her.

We get along a little too well now, it scares our mother sometimes when we get along. All the years of us fighting have now leveled out for us to always be scheming together. She may have just started high school and I might be graduating college soon, but I’m pretty sure we’re stuck with each other forever.

Our opinions? In-sync. Our mood together? Popping. Loyalty? Always.

A selfie of my sister and I in 2019. Image by Gena Sysavath.

Featured image by Gena Sysavath.

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