I’ve been a sister all my life. I first became a big sister at age 2 — twice — then twice again before I was 8.
Being a big sister is a role I have always taken very seriously. As much as my little siblings annoyed me and as many times as I screamed at them for being in my room or stealing my clothes, I have always loved them unconditionally.
It was my job to watch them, stand up for them, teach them and yes, even tattle on them. The older we grew, the more I wanted to protect them. I tried to prepare them for whatever came next in life, whether it be driving or choosing a college. In our youth, I blazed the trail and they followed.
When I messed up, I got punished more than once. Not only did I have to deal with the direct consequences, but my parents and grandparents would also lecture me on the importance of setting a good example. Then I’d worry my sisters would make the same mistake I did simply because they were
imitating me. They did everything else I did.
Being a big sister can be really tough. They have always come to me for advice, which I give freely, sometimes even when it isn’t solicited. It only got harder as we aged. I’m no longer automatically the first one to experience everything, and that’s frustrating. I don’t always know what to say or do now, or what not to. Sometimes all that I can offer a hug and a tissue box.
Maybe that’s why becoming a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tri-State was such a natural decision for me. “That’s something I could do,” I thought the first time I learned about the volunteer mentoring program. My biological sisters had been grooming me for the role for decades.
After applying, passing a background check and being interviewed by staff, my Little, Regina, and I were carefully matched by a BBBS case worker who took the time to ensure we had enough in common to start a relationship. Our friendship has only grown stronger with every passing year.
Regina was a shy 9-year-old when we were matched. She cried the first time we spent time together because she was so nervous about meeting me. I was nervous, too.
Now she’s a vibrant, outgoing 16-year-old, who’s brave enough to sing in the car or from a stage in front of strangers. Like all little sisters, she reminds me in a million different little ways I’m getting older, but shows me just as many ways I am valued by her.
It’s been a privilege to watch her grow up and to be a part of her life. Her grandmother has become a friend and mentor to me, too. I love just sitting in their home chatting with her.
Being a Big to a child is as simple as being a friend. It’s an incredibly fun and rewarding experience I recommend to anyone who wants to invest in the future of our community and nation.
It is easier than people think to carve out a handful of hours a few days a month to spend together. When my adult life gets stressful and crazy, I can’t wait to spend time with Regina, trying on outfits at the mall, getting our nails done or bowling.
I love introducing her to new things and hearing about all of her little victories. Every time she confides in me and picks my brain to help her solve a problem, my heart swells with sisterly pride.
As she grows into a capable, smart adult, I am confident she’ll go out into a bigger world and do great things. I feel blessed to be a part of her life.
I just hope like with my siblings, when the Big and Little titles fade, we’ll always be sisters.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.