Sibling revelry

My two daughters are the best of friends partly because the younger one adores her older sister

My two daughters were born three years apart and they don't look like each other, not to me anyway. Yet strangers and acquaintances have asked me on more than a few occasions if they are twins.

This could be because F, who is 10, and S, seven, are about the same height.

But it is more likely the misconception results from the fact that they seem to chatter all the time about subjects known only to the two of them, immersed as they seem to be in a fun-filled fantasy world populated by their stuffed toys (Bedtime Bear or "BB", Kaloo, Pinky, Binky, etc) and governed by strange rules.

Forget the Seven Wonders of the World - ancient, modern or natural - their times of bonding are the most beautiful sight in the world to me.

I would love to claim credit for being a most excellent parent who could raise two kids who are so close to each other.

(Until S was born, I did not understand why my mother was always so eager for my two elder siblings and I to enjoy good relationships - few things pain parents more than seeing their children in discord.)

Forget the Seven Wonders of the World - ancient, modern or natural - their times of bonding are the most beautiful sight in the world to me.

But the truth is neither my wife nor I have much to do with our daughters' mostly harmonious relationship (these best of friends can turn the most bitter of enemies for short spells, but that's another story).

It is partly due to F, who can be rather accommodating of her younger sister.

Mostly, I think, it is due to S, who has been chasing after F's affections since she was born.

Through the years, I have snapped many pictures of S looking longingly at F from when she was old enough to focus her eyes on an object.

Even now when S wants to pick an outfit to wear for a special occasion, she seeks and is interested only in F's advice.

In fact, every time we head out of the home, she asks: "Jie Jie, are we dressing fashionably?"

My opinion is so much dust blowing in the wind and my wife's suggestions are brushed off like annoying food crumbs on a perfectly laid-out table prepared for a banquet only for S and her Jie Jie.

Actually, if F allowed it, S would want to wear the same clothes as her Jie Jie. After all, she often draws the pictures F has drawn, writes stories similar to those F has written and has chosen to take up taekwondo like F has done.

My wife and I had thought she would pick ballet or some kind of dance instead.

While she had long expressed an interest in dance, she did not breathe a word about taekwondo or any other kind of martial arts until she saw F practising her kicks and punches.

Then, soon enough, she too began copying the moves, albeit secretly because F, wanting some space to herself, forbade S from joining the sport and even practising the kicks and punches.

After she got promoted to yellow belt, F okayed her sister's entry into taekwondo, since she would be ahead of her younger sister.

Truth be told, F has nothing to worry about in this regard. S is not bent on outdoing or outshining her.

My wife says S is kiasu, or afraid to lose out to her sister. I disagree.

Far from being competitive, S is mostly content to take a backseat to F, so long as she is a part of her sister's life in some big way.

It is lovely to see them being a part of each other's life. It would be equally lovely to see S embrace her own strengths, interests and personality, all of which are different from F's.

One is methodical, the other is creative. One is rigorous in her approach to reading, the other is intuitive.

One is calm and not especially emotional (except when daddy is upset with her), the other is passionate and compassionate.

One cannot sit still for a few minutes, the other cannot walk more than 500m without complaining my ear off.

I don't want S to miss out on her life while she is busy looking at F live hers. But I don't know how to get through to her, since my opinion apparently holds less weight than her sister's.

I can only sigh as I look at her sometimes when she is looking towards F, and hope for the day she wants to do dance, and doesn't write a story or draw a picture before having seen what F has written or drawn.

In the meantime, there's My Little Pony to give me hope.

That cartoon and book series about magical earth ponies, unicorn ponies, pegasus ponies and alicorn ponies (unicorns with wings) is the one big thing in S' life now that she loves wholeheartedly despite F's disdain for it (too childish and girly for her).

In the fantasy world Equestria where the ponies live, S is free to enjoy the magic of friendship without looking over her shoulder for F's approval.

I can't wait to see the younger one take off on her own flight of fantasy on the back of her favourite alicorn Twilight Sparkle, embark on her own adventures and eventually earn her own cutie mark, which in the show are badges of honour unique and distinctive to each pony in Equestria.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 19, 2017, with the headline 'Sibling revelry'. Print Edition | Subscribe