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The Sun and the Moon Align
A winning essay from the Awards for Youth in Care
Tatiana Gonzales
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Before our placement in foster care, my sister and I were not very close. We are complete opposites, as different as day and night. She was like the sun, bright and warm, welcoming to all. I was like the moon, quiet and solitary, distanced emotionally even from the people who were close physically. We often fought, and as my mother began her descent into drug use, we struggled to deal with this new hand life dealt us. My sister distanced herself from the situation, often spending more time with her friends than with her family. I chose to throw myself into caring for my newborn brother, becoming even more socially isolated.

As time went on, I began to resent my sister and the ease with which she ignored our mother’s behavior. I felt like she was abandoning us, like she didn’t care how my brother and I were handling the changes in our lives. At the climax of my mother’s addiction, my siblings and I were forced into foster care. We were placed in a group home where we were separated from our then-toddler-aged brother. It was here that our relationship strengthened.

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I was ill-equipped to handle this change and was almost paralyzed by this abrupt alteration to our lives. My sister, however, took charge of the situation. As we attempted to adjust to our new surroundings, it was she who comforted me and drew me out of my haze of disbelief. It was she who advocated for our right to visit our brother, not only to ensure his well-being but to draw me out of my almost incapacitated state. While I cannot say she was or is the easiest person to get along with, I can say that she defended us with all the ferocity of a mother bear and continues to do so to this day. She has taken up a mantle that should never have been hers, that of a protector for my brother and me.

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In the years since, my sister has taught me many important life skills. She taught me to be strong, and to never let people disrespect me. From her I learned to stand my ground and to keep moving forward despite the trials and adversity that life will throw my way.

I have also learned new things about her as a person. I learned that what I once saw as avoidance of our situation was in fact a coping mechanism. Her choice to spend time away from our family was not evidence of her apathy toward my brother and me. Rather it was the only way she knew how to deal with how our lives were deteriorating before our eyes. This realization has helped us not only bond over our shared struggle, but also to gain a sense of understanding and respect for each other.

I hope that in the future, my sister and I can continue to cultivate our sibling relationship, and I hope to one day say that she knows me as well as I know myself. While I regret the circumstances that brought about this change in my relationship with my sister, I do not regret its effect. I now know that no matter what happens, I can count on my sister to put me first in a way that no one else will. I know that I can trust her to be there for me and to always have my best interests at heart. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

(FCYU-2015-10-17)