Dear Five Faces: I’m writing because I’m concerned about my younger sister, Trina. She’s a junior in high school and is a disciplined, studious student, the kind of child any normal parent would want. The problem is that our mother isn’t a normal mother – she’s a full-blown Fire! Life with her wasn’t easy for me growing up, but I have a lot of Water so could balance her energy. My younger sister has little Water and is pretty much at Mom’s mercy. What concerns me now is that Mom thinks Trina is letting life pass her by, so is encouraging her to attend parties where alcohol is served, go out with wild guys, things like that, all in the name of having fun. Mom’s secondary element is Wood, so she can be pretty forceful about what she wants, too. At first, Trina was uncomfortable with Mom’s suggestions, but lately she seems somewhat tempted by the open door of freedom. How can I help Trina stay grounded in who she really is and not make a terrible mistake? Signed: Worried Sister in Seattle
Dear Worried Sister in Seattle: This is an interesting dilemma. You don’t mention how much older you are than Trina, what element you think Trina is, or what your current relationship is with you mother, so I’ll make a few assumptions that I hope will be on target.
First, the fact that you’re concerned about Trina and are advocating for her suggests that you probably have a lot of Wood in addition to your Water; Woods stick up for the underdog every chance they get. In fact, if your mother is Fire/Wood, it might have been your own Wood that allowed you to do well with your mother rather than your Water. We usually say that two Woods in a relationship need to establish who gets to be the boss for the relationship to be stable, but in the case of a Wood daughter and a Wood mother (or a secondary Wood mother), that isn’t going to be a question: The mom almost always leads. So you could have had a relationship with your mom based on understanding each other as Woods rather than you controlling her Fire with your Water, which can be hard for a child to do. And the times life with your mom was difficult for you, it might have been because her Fire was consuming your Wood, which Fire does. This Wood connection with your mother is going to be important in helping Trina.
However, you’ve written about Trina, so let’s start with her. I suspect Trina is a Metal, which is the element Fires most often believe need to “loosen up.” And remember, Fires have weak boundaries, so in the rush of enthusiasm your Fire mom has for the fun of life, it’s possible she might miss the inappropriateness of some of her suggestions to Trina. But luckily, Trina has you for a big sister, and there are several ways you will be able to help her.
If you currently have a good relationship with your mom, I suggest you have a quiet and private talk with her, Wood to Wood. As a secondary Wood, your mom should know herself well enough to realize that her Fire can lose boundaries and get out of control. Her Wood will hate being out of control, so should appreciate your helping her see that the situation with Trina could be heading into undesirable territory. If you can engage her Wood in the discussion, it should all go well. But if she moves into Fire, either because she is lobbying for fun or panicking about Trina, use your Water to manage her. Staying calm and even a bit playful with your mom will help. In truth, though, I’m counting on your mom’s Wood to step up and envision the changes that are necessary.
You can also talk with Trina. As a Metal, she will value control, so if you can gently point out how out of control some of the possible situations might be, especially dating “wild” guys, Trina will probably think twice. You can also count on Trina’s Metal to appreciate what’s “right” and follow the rules, which might be useful in keeping her away from parties where alcohol is being served to underage students. Breaking the law isn’t something Metals do lightly.
You are the perfect person to intervene gently on Trina’s behalf, and Trina is very fortunate to have you as her sister. As long as you tread lightly with your mother (Wood’s don’t like being wrong) while honoring her Fire appreciation of fun, she should hear you and stop insisting on Fire wildness as an appropriate move for your little sister. Good luck!