Sometime in 8th grade I went to the store with my mom and my youngest sister, AJ. I remember people watching the three of us walking through the store with quizzical looks. They would look first at my mom, then to me, then to AJ, then back to me. Finally, as we made our way through the checkout, the cashier looked at me and said “Your daughter is so cute,” then back to my mother and finished “You are a lucky grandma!” I stared, my 14-year-old self feeling completely embarrassed and horrified, as my mom calmly answered, “Actually, I’m the mom. They are both mine.”
It wasn’t the last time we would get comments like this, and when people were really feeling nosey, they would add comments like “Oh. Second marriage?” My mom, always collected, would respond with a smile and explain that we were in fact from the same mother and father. People always looked confused. In their defense, they were missing some pieces.
I’m the oldest of five children. I have two brothers, G (who is a year and a half younger than me) and M (five years younger); and two sisters, MJ (eleven years younger) and AJ (thirteen years younger). Even when my whole family is together people look really confused. In some ways I understand their confusion. Big families are something of an oddity nowadays. I use this word loosely — we are big compared to many mainstream families, but I know plenty of larger famillies.
I used to be really annoyed that I was the oldest of so many. It meant having to sacrifice Friday nights to babysit my younger sisters. It meant having to plan family vacations around the expectations of a five-year-old rather than an eighteen-year-old. When we all went to Disney World in my junior year of high school we spent a lot of time waiting in line for the teacups or to meet the princesses when all I really wanted to do was go on Tower of Terror. I always felt like I was last on the priority list.
Now, however, I realize the value of my experience. In April I gave birth to my first child, a boy named Nathan Malcolm. I then understood what a great opportunity my childhood had been. Taking care of my son seemed like second nature. I knew exactly how to bathe him. I knew how often to feed him. I knew how to dress him, when to start feeding him solid food, when he should start smiling, even how to get him to fart when I knew he had a stomach ache.
I didn’t worry when he got fussy, I just tried one thing at a time to calm him down. First a diaper change, then a bath, a walk, a song, a feeding. I realized that even though he was my first child, I was by no means a first time mom. It didn’t register right away how quickly I had fallen into my new momma role. It wasn’t until my husband expressed how difficult the transition had been for him. I told him that I thought it had been quite easy and he said “but you’ve had so much practice!” He was right. I wasn’t really new at it.
Even more wonderful is the fact that M, MJ, and AJ are now 17, 11, and 9 respectively and have been a huge help with Nathan. I love that my sisters now have the same chance that I had to be around a much younger child, to learn the way I did. Even more, I love the fact that M loves to show my son off to all of his friends and, even better, that his friends make a point to come visit Nathan.
Being a sister has most certainly prepared me to be a better mother. And the best part? Now I get to be both!
Comments on No, that’s not my daughter: how being a sister prepared me for motherhood
I feel like this is the story of my life (minus actually having a baby of my own, that is.) I’m the oldest of four, and there’s seven years between me and my twin brothers, and a whopping 14 years between me and my youngest brother (same parents, same marriage – holy fertility drugs, Batman!) I was always the default babysitter, and I got to learn the ugly parts of raising a baby very, very quickly (I still maintain that being a big sister = best form of birth control EVER). And I have one crystal clear memory of pushing the youngest brother around the mall in his stroller one time, when an old lady came up to me and told me that “I should be ashamed of myself” – rather, that I should be ashamed of my apparent teenage, single motherhood. It did get exasperating explaining that after a while. But now all my friends call me freaking out about their brand new babies, cause I’m the one that knows how its done.
My mom told me once, when I was 14/15 and she was having her second baby in 18 months, that I didn’t even need to do the high school thing where you carry a baby doll/sack of flour around… she knew I was fully aware of the realities of life with a baby and wasn’t going anywhere near having one!
Love love love this! I’m 28 and my sister is seven and a half, and strangers typically turn to me first when asking questions about her rather than my parents (who are pretty young themselves; I was adopted at 17 and my sister was a very unplanned surprise!). It always makes me laugh, because C is such a good combination of both parents and in some ways looks like mini-mes of both of them, and I’m more like this haphazardly and randomly assembled person who somehow managed to get thrown into a family who shares some physical similarities (mom’s eyes, dad’s unusual hair color).
Anyhow, it was hard in my early 20s when I lived and at home and wanted to have this awesome 20-something life, but now that I’m almost 30, I really appreciate what the last almost eight years have taught me. I am ready to have kids now, but my biggest worry has become that I’ll never love them as much as I love C! 🙂
I remember just recently I took my littlest brother, who is 16 years younger than I am to a fair my middle brother’s school was having. I was carrying my brother who was 2 or 3 then and ran into my old 4th grade teacher. She asked if my brother was my son. I get that a lot. Lol.
My half-brother is twelve years younger than me. He could be my little male clone. We were always treated so badly in public. He would be ignored at the fair when it was just the two of us waiting in line, people would whisper as I walked past. I started saying really loudly to these people, “He’s my brother, bitch.” It was rude, crude, but it got my point across. I am the oldest of four. I’ve been told I’m a natural at the mom thing, so I just hope that’s true when I have one of my own someday.
I am 8 months pregnant with my first child(girl) I am going to be 23 years old in Feb and I have a sister who is 3 years old! She just started preschool 🙂 and already an auntie to a lil boy from my brother born a few months ago. She looks like a mini me. My mother had posted a photo of me when i was a baby and everyone including myself thought it was her. I constantly get oh shes so beautiful, then they ask her a question about mommy(meaning me) and i politely say no shes my sister 🙂 we are 19 years apart and now that im having a baby i am more prepared then i ever could be. I took care of her for my mother for the first few months of her life. We are very close but she isnt too excited about the lil baby coming haha but im sure she will be happy when she sees i will always have time and love for her no matter what happens. <3
Yep, people in public would comment about me having a baby at 13. She was my little sister!
I stopped reading when you complained about having to help with a trip to disney world…. I’m one of 5 kids and we never had a vacation… I don’t know what a family vacation is… we couldn’t afford any of those things.