When my parents told me they were expecting in my final year of high school, I didn’t believe them for about a month or so. My youngest sister was 12 and I didn’t really think my parents wanted another child. But I fell in love with my baby sister before she was born, before we had even decided what we were going to name her. When she’d stepped into our lives, everything we’d planned for our future had changed and we didn’t even realize it.
I teared up when I first saw her, sleeping in her incubator. Her cradle was decorated with moon-shaped fairy lights. I’d spend hours staring at her, bewildered. How could God make someone so beautiful? Her hands were wrinkled and her eyes barely opened. Her cries were music to my ears. Every little word she said made me jump out of my seat (I say “word” but I still can’t make sense of anything she says).
It’s a completely different experience when you have a baby at home but none of the responsibility that comes along with it. There’s no stress about poop-filled diapers, nappy rashes, or sleepless nights. You spend your evenings doing what you want, and your days basking in the bundle of joy. Everything that you watch your parents do is exciting and adventurous.
It may sound a bit too poetic, but babies don’t stay babies for long. Their cries get louder, their demands get more complicated and they learn all the things you don’t want them to learn. The most dreadful part of a growing baby is when they’re obsessed with touching and tasting every single thing they see.
Living with a baby is an entirely different experience than watching a 2-minute video of them on Instagram. You’ve already made space for them in your heart. Now you’re making space for them in your room. Your habits are changing; you can’t binge-watch TV series, your desk is always clean and there are toys in every corner of your room. All the time you spent reading in peace is now spent finding a place to hide during your game of hide-and-seek. You feel helpless when she’s pulling on your sleeve while you’re attending an online class.
They know when your attention is half-hearted. They make you vulnerable. You’re starting to change and you don’t realize it. You’re questioning all the things you took for granted before. Your time isn’t yours anymore. Even if you aren’t actively parenting them, your presence in their lives is enough for them to learn from you.
We tend to compare our upbringing with our siblings’, but there’s an entire generation gap between me and my sister. There is nothing similar in the way we are raised. My parents are different people now as compared to when I was born. I grew up with my grandparents and cousins; my sister only knows them through a screen. She knows how to navigate Youtube at the age of 2. I held my first phone when I was 10. My favorite shows were televised in the morning. She can watch anything she wants, anytime. At the end of the day, we do not have anything to argue about. But then again, is it possible for us to agree on the same things?
Parenting styles differ as parents grow older. We cannot, however, generalize which set of parents have the upper hand. My parents continue to instill the same values in her as they did in me. However, our standards of living are different than what was 15 years ago. I often question how different a person she will grow into.
The decisions I’ve made let me watch her grow. Sooner or later, I will move away from her. Nevertheless, life is volatile and our relationship is fragile. Despite my immense love for her, will we grow apart and never find a thing in common to talk about? Or will the fact that we were raised in the same home be enough to maintain our bond?