The relationship we have with our siblings is the longest standing one of our lives. They share our childhood, they are our first teachers and peers, early experiences with them teach us some of the basics of human interaction, sharing, kindness, empathy, humour, LOVE. I hasten to add that single children without siblings are not by any means denied any of these things and indeed, even now, my only-child husband doesn’t see a huge difference between siblings and long standing childhood friends. I suppose my enthusiasm for the relationship is thanks to the siblings I have and how very much I love them. As a middle child pop psychology teaches us that I should be very much damaged by this, attention starved, third best and filled with resentment. On the contrary I have always felt very spoilt by my middle child status. I get to be a little sister and a big sister. Best of both worlds.
My early childhood (indeed most of my life!) was spent in awe of my big sister. I wanted to be her. She taught me all the dance moves for Bananarama songs, she corrected the fact that the words were not ‘guilty as a coco bean’. She was in school plays that I longed to be in. She went to university and I cried. She invited me to house parties, taught me to drink cider and blackcurrant and had her friend throw out the student who didn’t understand that the fact I was 16 mean that it was NOT acceptable to chat me up. She visited me at university and warned me off the unsuitable men, while still holding my hand and providing the sympathy when, having ignored her advice, it inevitably went wrong (without a single I told you so). I was bridesmaid at her wedding and she trusted me to calm her down when an allergic reaction to the Christmas Tree threatened to leave her with a puffy face for the wedding (which it didn’t thankfully!) She turned up to my wedding looking fabulous and held my hand despite the fact her 4 week old daughter had been in hospital until the night before (a fact that nobody told me!!). When we were given the agonisingly bleak diagnosis for our unborn baby she was there, she was the one who threw me a baby shower despite the fact that we knew there was a chance baby wouldn’t survive. She made me realise that other people had as much hope for my baby as I did. It was hugely significant.
When my little brother was born I remember being SO proud! I was very over protective of him as a child. If he cried, I cried. One Saturday when we must have been 6, 10 and 14 my Dad flipped his lid about a mess which had been left in the kitchen. We were all summoned and told that the culprit had to confess and Dad, as an afterthought, said that if it was Greg he wasn’t allowed to go to his football game in the afternoon. Knowing full well it hadn’t been me I instantly confessed, knowing how upset Greg would be to miss his game. I was duly punished and shouted at. When in due course the whole thing came out Dad didn’t know whether to be angry or impressed! I was in my 20s before I recognised that the tables had completely turned and I was the one subject to my brother’s protectiveness. It was a long story involving a bad boyfriend and my brother’s (very uncharacteristic) willingness to flatten him. His adolescent quiet nature hid a razor sharp wit which now flourishes and which has, on more occasions than I can remember, during times of crisis brought me back from the edge of tears, into laughter. His very special relationship with Mojo touches my heart regularly and watching the two of them play together makes me so happy.
People often tell me that I’m so brave and so strong in relation to the challenges we face with Mojo. My siblings taught me to be resilient, to laugh at myself, to keep perspective on the world and they helped teach me about unconditional love.
I have watched my sister’s young children learning with each other, growing together and loving each other. Knowing that Mojo requires so much of our time and resources the option of expanding our family has been one I’ve long lamented over. I’ve read all the leaflets from Sibs (the wonderful organisation which supports the siblings of children with additional needs) they talk about how difficult life can be for these siblings and how easy it is for them to feel under valued and under pressure. It talks about the huge responsibilities which present themselves far earlier in life than they do for those of us with conventional sibling relationships. Would we be selfish to have more children knowing how much care Mojo requires? How would I cope with pregnancy when our daily life is so physically demanding? All of this is before we even take into consideration the possibility of a repeat HPE diagnosis. Would we be able to cope with two children with complex needs? Alternatively could we cope with the emotional wringer of genetic testing and more meetings to dictate to us whether or not it would be sensible to expand our family? Probably not.
Then there’s that thing again. That thing which refused to abandon me during my pregnancy with Mojo. Call it faith, instinct, call it gut feeling, call it lunacy but its the thing that allows us to believe in lost causes, to hope for the impossible and to disregard all sensible logic in favour of hope, optimism and (far more cheesily) true love conquering all.
So, with careless disregard to genetic testing, total brushing over of day to day logistics, casual discounting of pessimism but a wholehearted assuredness that there isn’t a family in the world who could love a baby, a baby with any level of needs, as much as we could, we await the arrival of Mojo’s baby sister. Our hearts are full to bursting with an enthusiasm to replicate the fun, laughter, love and adventures which prevailed in our own childhoods.
Mojo is learning about sisters, gentleness, sharing and kissing tummies. I came upstairs recently to overhear my husband saying ‘no, no sweetheart, there’s no baby in there, you don’t need to kiss Daddy’s tummy’ it took me a few minutes to stop laughing. Can’t blame her for misunderstanding. She is going to be such a fabulous big sister.
So say hi to baby….. anyone got a couple of months free early September for a bit of childcare??
|*waves at world*|