COLUMBIA — Christina Robinson, 29, and her 10-year-old sister, Samantha Staples, lost their mother to lung cancer about four years ago.
Robinson has been both sister and mother ever since.
"I could sit at home every day and say, 'Boohoohoo, my mom died. ... Boohoohoo, my dreams got put on hold because I am raising my sister," she said. "Honestly, I would rather make the best of the situation at hand."
Robinson parents "Sam," a fourth-grader at Rock Bridge Elementary School, by watching out for her safety, making her do chores and helping her with her homework.
She also makes the most of teachable moments. When the sisters hunt in Macon County or go hiking together in their wooded backyard south of Columbia, Robinson explains why a creek is dry just before winter or how a fossil is made.
"I see her as a mom because she is teaching me stuff. It's not like a teacher," Sam said. "And she tells me what to do and what not to do."
But Robinson won't give up her role as Sam's big sister.
"In my budget, I try to incorporate Sam and I to get our nails done every once in a while," Robinson said. "Just something small that we can still do as sisters."
And there are still pillow fights and tickle fights and sisterly arguments over sharing shoes — they have the same size 7 1/2.
Robinson, who works for Columbia Orthopaedic Group as a precertification specialist, is the family's sole provider. She recently started working from home.
"Not only am I still able to provide for my sister, but I am also home when she gets home from school," Robinson said.
Working from home also has opened up the possibility to apply and go to medical school, a goal Robinson has had for some time.
"As far as trying to parenting her, no parent has all the rules," Robinson said. "No parent has all the answers. There’s no right or wrong. There is no answer. We do the best we can."
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.