New puppy or baby sister?
I was seven years old when my mom announced she was pregnant (though it was obvious, by that time, from all of my parents’ “subtle” hints), and until then, I was an only child. A neurotic only child: I didn’t like change.
Various people attempted to get me excited about my new role as someone’s big sister. All failed. Suddenly, I wasn’t the center of the universe anymore, and I didn’t like it.
“You’re going to have a baby sister!” they would exclaim. “It’ll teach you valuable life lessons like sharing. Aren’t you excited?” It didn’t make me feel any better. I didn’t want valuable life lessons. What child does? I equated the existence of a sibling with eating broccoli. I certainly didn’t have to enjoy it.
In a misguided attempt to get me jazzed up about upcoming baby Brewton, one of my father’s coworkers asked if I would rather have a baby sister or a puppy. I’m not sure what answer she was expecting, but you can guess my reply.
Two weeks later, I received a pomeranian mix. Four months later I got a baby sister.
The puppy was a nice distraction, but what I really wanted was for my life to return to pre-sibling status. Everything was uncomfortably different.
My mom had become weirdly emotional since the little bundle’s arrival. Every new movement was cause for celebration. I didn’t understand. “Caroline, she BURPED,” she would exclaim with the enthusiasm of Oprah Winfrey on giveaway day. Or it was “she only threw up A LITTLE of her formula on my shirt!” Prudish, I was turned off by my normally dainty mother’s sudden interest in the bodily functions of her newborn.
In fact, the baby’s arrival fundamentally changed her, as new motherhood will, and my little world was shaken. Normally the first up, she began sleeping late. And normally the first to bed, she spent long nights walking the halls with the screaming pink blob of flesh that was the new baby. Dad, I think, just tried to stay out of the way. I spent a lot of time hiding under my desk, wishing for soundproof walls.
The sudden noisiness of my house wasn’t the only problem. I was very calculating. In my selfish assessment, the new baby would occupy a large portion of my parents’ affection, attention and bank account. I was jealous. But I was also right: she did all of those things. I hoped with all the intensity of a spoiled child that she would grow up to be frustratingly average.
As the years passed, though, she morphed from abstract object of displeasure into an actual human being with dimensions to her personality that I enjoyed, and I realized that all of those things I thought I wanted before were wrong. I just wanted her to do better, be better than I was. Happier. That’s what happens when you love someone. And I do love her. She crept up on me.
Sometimes, though, when I see at her doing something stupid, I think I’d like to strangle her with her purse strap. Then my eyes catch her eyes and I know she’s thinking the same thing.
Because she is my sister, and I am hers.