Lessons I learned from my little sisters

Courtesy of Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor | Pictured above are Zach Petroff’s younger sisters (from left to right) Emmaline, Amanda, Victoria and Rylynn.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

March 9, 2023

Being the eldest of six, with four younger sisters, is not for the faint of heart. It was not until I turned 18 and moved out that I was finally able to experience a clean bathroom floor.

Even as someone who wrestled, had two combat deployments and even cage fought, some of my greatest (and bloodiest) battles have come at the hands of my sister, Amanda, as we fought over the family computer.

I often describe my childhood as strange because that is the closest adjective that can describe how our household operates without having to go into detail.

My mother, while greatly flawed, had to support her six children by any means that she could. This often left the kids to fend themselves, creating a rank-structure that required the older sibling to look after the younger sibling.

The backward lifestyle we experienced created a level of resentment toward my childhood. However, like everything in life, time heals all wounds.

It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I am able to truly appreciate the lessons I learned from my younger sisters.

Amanda, the aforementioned grappler, was the closest to my age and was my best friend while being my greatest foe.

Her passion is often described as brazen by men who are intimidated by her unwillingness to compromise her ethics. She is intelligent and has become a prominent advocate for women’s rights.

Amanda taught me to stand up for what I believe in, no matter the repercussions. The irony that my little sister taught her Marine older brother about what bravery really entails, is not lost on me.

Emmaline, the fourth born child, is bound for success. She is beautiful and unforgiving, and truly sees the world as it is. She recently moved to Detroit to pursue her dream of becoming a model.

She taught me how important it is to take that jump to follow your dream. She also taught me how to take attractive selfies for Instagram, a talent that is lost on me.

Victoria, the fifth born child, is kind and open to the world. She is also selfless. In a family full of children, she was on the receiving end of middle-child syndrome. Attention was often diverted to the other siblings, as Victoria often played second-fiddle to the constant crises that we created. It is a rare occasion that she says anything ill about someone else.

Victoria taught me about giving people, even if they don’t deserve it, the benefit of the doubt. She taught me to see the best in everyone.

Rylynn, the baby of the family, was born after I moved out. She is currently in high school and very well may be the most intelligent member of the family. She wants to be a writer, which is driven by her natural curiosity.

Rylynn taught me about hope. It has become easy to be cynical, to just throw in the towel on today’s world. We forget that this world is not really made for us, but for the future generations.

Wednesday was International Women’s Day, a day designed to celebrate the social, cultural and political achievements of women. My life would be vastly different if I didn’t have my sisters and other strong women in my life.

While history is filled with admirable women, most of us do not have to look far to find unsung heroines. My sisters are tough, smart and compassionate because they had to be. They showed me how to be compassionate but were not afraid to hold who they love accountable.

There is no doubt that even today this is a man’s world, whether it’s limiting women’s health rights to young women in Iran getting poisoned. Before we can honestly protect and stand up for the women in the world, perhaps we can start appreciating women.

The way I choose to appreciate my sisters, especially coming from a family that tends to shy away from affection is by keeping the lessons they taught me in my heart.

And knowing that no matter how much time or space is between us, I can still embarrass them.