When I was a kid, I was the little princess in my family, doted upon and sole centre of interest for three years and six months. Then it was announced that there would be an addition to our family. A baby was on its way.
Suddenly, much to my consternation, my mother’s growing belly became the centre of attention. I was, I was gleefully informed, about to be become a ‘big sister’. Not quite knowing what this ‘big sister’ gig entailed, I accepted the mood of the moment and awaited the newcomer.
The baby was, I was told, going to be a playmate for me. The baby was, I was told, going to be someone with whom I could read stories and do puzzles. The baby was, I was told, going to be my brand new friend. I was, I was told, going to love the baby. I began to be excited about the baby.
LIES! LIES! LIES!
The baby finally came. I was shunted off to stay with Nanna for five days while my mother went to hospital for the doctors to remove the baby from her stomach. I was very worried about this. Nobody would tell me how the baby got into her stomach or how it was going to be taken out. I couldn’t figure it out. The only experience I had had with birth was with Mrs Hill’s broody hens. I had seen a little chick hatch out of an egg and it seemed to me that this would have been a far more efficient method for the production of human babies. Mum could have easily kept a large egg warm until it was ready to hatch and it would have saved a trip to the hospital.
My father took me to the hospital to see Mum and the baby. What a shock that was! I was expecting to see a playmate, a smaller version of myself. What I saw was a tiny, red, wrinkled, bellowing creature wrapped up tightly in a flannelette blanket.
‘I don’t like it,‘ I informed my father. He just laughed. I told him again but it didn’t seem to alter his opinion. This was my new brother and everyone was very happy about his arrival.
I felt completely tricked. This was not a playmate. I couldn’t do puzzles with this person. He couldn’t read stories with me. He couldn’t build cubbies or colour pictures. He was absolutely no use whatsoever and I did not like him at all. Despite all my protests, my parents stubbornly refused to give the baby back to the hospital and brought him home with us at the end of the week. I was very definitely no longer the sole centre of attention.
With my nose well and truly out of joint over this unsettling change in our family situation, my feelings towards the baby did not warm for several months. He yelled a lot, took up most of my mother’s time and my father doted on him. It wasn’t until he learned to sit up that I began to suspect that he might indeed have possibilities as a playmate. He liked it when I rolled a ball to him. He laughed and laughed and that made me laugh.
With four years between us, my brother and I grew together and then grew apart several times throughout our childhood. We were at times partners in crime and at other times feuding parties. I was the one who showed him how to get into real trouble at school by going into the out of bounds areas. I was the one who encouraged him to parachute out of the tree house using an umbrella. I was the one who buried him up to his thighs in mud to see if pirate tortures really worked. I was also the one who was spanked for each of the aforementioned crimes.
He was the one who broke my nose with a cricket bat. He was the one who dobbed on my cousin and me when we took money from the change jar in the kitchen to buy ice-cream. He was the one who “borrowed” all my Beatles records to take to a party, only to have them stolen.
He is my brother. I guess that we were playmates, and we did do puzzles and read stories together.
He is my brother and…yes, okay…I love him.