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The Hazards and Hilarity of Teenhood: When My Married Sister Moved In

Malka Hillelsohn

Sometimes, even when you can’t change things, there are ways to help you cope with what you can’t change without feeling all that yuckiness inside of you

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I was a pest.

It’s not pleasant to admit that I was a teenage pest, but I was. A really, really awful one. So bad, that when I went to the bungalow colony as a kid, my bunk was named the Grouches. And everyone knew I was the inspiration behind the name. So what does that have to do with anything? Tons.

When I was growing up, I had a married sister. I positively, absolutely LOOOOOOOVED my sister. I loved her as much as I hated my younger sister who was an even bigger pest than I was. My older sister had this ADOOOOORABLE little baby girl who I ADOOOOOOOOORED to pieces. It’s important you know all this information so you can realize what a major pest I was.

So I adored my sister, I adored my niece and wanted to spend every single second of my life babysitting her. Which I did (basically until I had my own children). You think I’m exaggerating? So listen up.

In the olden days when I went to school in the one room schoolhouse… just kidding… when I went to my local Bais Yaakov, things were a little more laidback than they are now. So if my sister went on vacation, or wanted to spend the day shopping, and my niece wasn’t in school yet because she was only two years old, or because she was supposed to be in school but for some reason or another she didn’t have school that day, my sister or mother would say, “Malka, do you mind taking Toby to school with you tomorrow?” And I would say, “Sure, no problem.”

And it was really no problem, as long as my niece was dropped off after lunch, in time for our English classes, which were a little less serious than our morning classes when it wouldn’t go over very well to have a two-year-old sitting in the back coloring.

I promise you this happened. Would I lie to you?

I can’t say I did it often, but often enough that teachers glanced at my niece, said, “Oh, she’s so cute,” and then went on to teach science or global or math or whatever else they were teaching at that time. One teacher, who knew my sister and watched my niece as she passed by the teacher’s desk on her way to the back of the room with her snack and coloring book, asked, “Is that nail polish she’s wearing?” and that was pretty embarrassing, because she was wearing nail polish. But otherwise, my niece was an angel and sat through enough classes to take the Regents.

All this information is for you to understand how much I positively loved my niece. So why do you think I metamorphosed into this terribly insufferable person who kicked up a huge fuss when my sister and her family moved in for Shabbos or Yom Tov? I grouched and sulked and threw mini obnoxious tantrums, driving everyone crazy while they yelled, “Malka, act like a mentsch!” and I didn’t. I couldn’t.

I muttered under my breath when they came, and slouched around being disagreeable and unhelpful as they moved into my room, refusing to take their bags or watch my niece, thumping the extra cutlery down on the table, slamming cabinet doors closed as I took out the dishes, and generally ruining everyone’s good mood at the incoming Shabbos or Yom Tov.

Why did I act like that?

Here’s my answer.

I turned into that hateful, unpleasant person because I simply did not know how to express my upset in a normal way so that people would listen to me. Obviously I was upset, but nobody knew about what.

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