I was 9 when my mom sat me down and announced there’d be an addition to our family.
Instantly, I was overjoyed. A puppy? A kitten? I began brainstorming name ideas – Spot. Meow. Moo. Fish.
Mom was quick to pop my bubble. “How do you feel about having a little brother or sister?”
I’d been an only child for 9 years (and it’d been great). I’d never had to share my room, parents, or my doughnuts. There was never an argument over what we should watch on TV, and I was most definitely the loudest thing under our roof. (Those were the days.)
“Storm?” she asked, “How does that sound?”
I’ll tell you the truth. It sounded horrific. I wanted no part of a family that involved a baby – a replacement. A Storm 2.0 I told my mom so. I explained how disappointed I was in her for even thinking this would be exciting, and added that a kitten would have been preferred. Then, I went to my room and cried – because how could my parents do this to me? Life was so perfect. So peaceful.
Did they even know what babies meant?
Babies meant crying, more toys, more school fees, and even more crying. Had they thought of the diapers? No one around here had needed diapers in years.
But there was no turning back after the baby bomb dropped. And, in time, I grew to like the idea of having a little slave sibling. I was even happier when I negotiated a deal with my parents... If I was going to accept this little being into our household, there’d be Terms and Conditions. My parents were willing to let me think I had the upper hand, and asked what I needed to make this work.
I pulled out my neon green highlighter, my A3 flip-chart, and set to work:
- I choose its name.
- I’m always there when it gets any new stuff (clothes, toys, blankets, nappies. Everything).
- They still have to love me the same.
- No replacing me.
Mom was willing to accept numbers 3 and 4 happily, willing to discuss number 1 and explain the burden I’d find number 2 to be. “You hate shopping.”
“Not for the baby.”
“It’ll get boring quickly,” she said. Then, she offered me something else, in exchange, “How about if you get to find out whether it’s a boy or girl first?”
That was an idea I could get behind. So, when the lovely doctor sent over a red envelope with my name on it, I was thrilled (and fuelled with power, obviously). I would know, before them. I would be the one to share the news.
I sat them down at our kitchen table, gave them a speech about how I appreciated them giving me this power, asked them what they wanted (a healthy baby) and if they had any preference (they didn’t), and then I cracked it open.
“It’s a boy.”
There were hugs and celebrations and pats on the stomach where the little boy was being housed for the time being, but I still wasn’t completely sold on the idea. Of course, I was excited. I was going to have a little brother! A little human to dress up and look after and cuddle – but through the budding excitement, there was a little thought that persisted: This little boy is going to change everything.
I witnessed the changes happening in front of my eyes. For one, he made mom look like she constantly had a watermelon tucked under her shirt. And she looked tired. He’d already taken command of the spare room – there were little clothes everywhere – and everyone was so interested in him. Total strangers would strike up conversations with mom about him all the time.
But something happened on the day of his birth.
It’s a moment I’ll never forget. It’d been raining on the morning my grandmother and I stepped into the hospital and wove our way through the corridors and into the ward. Behind the hospital curtain was mom – no longer bulging – and in her arms, a baby.
“Is that my brother?”
Not to sound dramatic or anything, but I’m quite sure that my whole world changed within that second and that there’s nothing that could make me feel like that again. I know that I wasn’t exactly…open to the idea of him initially and that I was nervous about how he’d affect our family dynamic – but I also know that I felt undeniably protective of this little blob and that I was so, so happy when I met him.
Last week, he turned nine. As he blew out his birthday candles I was reminded of the years of memories I have with him: our first meeting, his first steps, vacations, and arguments, dancing an impromptu waltz in the middle of the living room to pop music, and the many, many times he’s eaten the last doughnut without offering to share. Despite still thinking that a puppy would have been great, I’m glad he’s around.
Sometimes, the best things that happen to us aren’t what we signed up for.
Do you have any siblings? Are you the eldest, the youngest, or somewhere in the middle? And if you are an only child: Do you wish you’d had a sibling?
(Art by Alexies Adao.)