Dear Little Sister: An Open Letter to My Own Sister (and All the Young Girls Like Her)

Dear Little Sister,

I still remember how full of life you were when you were little. I remember the seemingly endless rounds of hide-and-go-seek we’d play and all the kingdoms we’d explore in the lawn together, washing our faces with warm sunlight. We’d play with all the neighborhood kids, and you, tottering at barely thirty-six inches, knew how to hold your own, even in a sea of boys. Braids were pulled. Bodies were pushed. But no matter what, you were strong and confident and everything in between.

I remember how you wanted to grow up to be anything and everything. One day you dreamt of being a princess, allowing visions of castles and white horses filling your reveries. The next day, you wanted to be a farmer, raising families of ducklings while milking cows. After that, you wanted to be an astronaut, exploring the depths of the unknown.

I remember how you’d always want to follow in the footsteps of our brother and me. You knew you could do anything that we could when you put your mind to it. I remember how you followed us to the school bus on our first day of kindergarten. With your hands on your hips and a backpack strapped to your tiny, three-year-old shoulders, you demanded a seat with defiance in your eyes and a pout splayed over your lips.

I remember how when you were little, the world was open to you, awaiting as a sea of opportunities. You weren’t defined by your age or your ethnicity or your gender but your words and your actions. That tiny little hand perched on your hip held all the power in the world.

I remember how fourth grade hit with ferocity. With age came boundaries and fear.

You grew withdrawn, shedding that unadulterated confidence in yourself and apathy for the world’s expectations. Society and its uncertainties seeped into your mind. Expeditions into the fairy land of our backyard came to a sudden halt in exchange for excursions with friends to the ice rink or the mall. I remember how you grew scared, insecurities latching onto your mind.

I remember how I’d help you with your homework, and you’d just shrug your shoulders and say, “I’m just not as smart as you. I need someone to help me.”

I remember how there’d be tryouts for the math team, and every spot would be filled with boys. They weren’t smarter or faster than you – just older and bigger – but you’d relinquish your chance anyway.

I remember how you would shy away from ice skating competitions and tennis matches, seeing your athletic talent as weak and lackluster.

I remember how you lost that confidence in yourself.

I want you, and all the other little girls like you, to realize that you have the ability to fulfill all your dreams and desires with hard work. You have the intelligence to solve the most challenging problems. You have the skills to take you wherever you want to go. All you need is the confidence.

ALICE AO — Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Alice is a high school student still searching for her place in the world. She enjoys reading all types of literature, writing short stories, solving math problems, and watching Gilmore Girls with her mom. Above all, she hopes that her words will help mold society into a more equal, inclusive, and accepting community.

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