For anyone who has a younger sibling, you know what I’m talking about.
From the moment they are born — or soon thereafter when you come to terms with the fact that you’re no longer the favorite — you are their protector, best friend and biggest cheerleader.
At least most of the time.
Being more than five years apart was tough when we were younger.
Brittany stole my favorite Cabbage Patch Kid when I was 7. She used to throw herself off the couch in the living room so my mom would scold me from the kitchen. And when she first got her learner’s permit, she nearly ran over a motorcyclist with my car.
We weren’t always on the same page.
She was still playing Barbies when I was going on sleepovers with my friends. I was away at college when she was going on her first date. And I had moved away from home by the time she and my mom went shopping for her prom dress.
But as Brittany got a bit older, we realized just how much we had in common aside from our bad dance moves, a love of quoting Dane Cook and our inherent ability to find a deal while shopping (thanks, Mom).
Three years ago, she decided to go to school at Shippensburg University, the same year I decided to start my master’s program there. And we grew a lot closer.
That first year, we would meet for breakfast, catch up over coffee and I would drop by to visit her in her dorm room on my way home after class.
I was the first person she called when she was lost and couldn’t find the mall (which happened a lot) and when she decided she wanted to change her major. I talked her through roommate issues and celebrated her getting on the dean’s list. And I was the first line of defense for meeting her boyfriend before she brought him home to Mom and Dad (I approved, of course).
And she was there for me, too. Putting things into perspective when I was stressed out, making me laugh when I needed to the most and helping me move into a fourth-story apartment on a 90-degree July afternoon.
Today my little sister turns 21.
As her friend, I’m excited to celebrate with her.
But as a big sister, I want to watch out for her and make sure she’s safe — or at the very least, make sure she doesn’t throw up all over our guest room this weekend.
Either way, I get to toast the beautiful, smart, driven women she has grown in to — even if I can’t take any of the credit.