April 16, 2014

What I Learned About Life When My Little Brother Was Born

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At 21 years of age, I was surprised to hear that my father was having another child. Actually I wasn’t surprised, I was speechless. Yes I realized that with my dad’s remarriage, things would change, but the thought of him starting another family seemed far-fetched. My father was in his 50’s and already had kids.

I remember when they told me, I listened, and reacted appropriately, but I didn’t believe it. I watched her stomach grow with each passing month, helped them pick a name, and watched a room transform from office to baby’s bedroom, but still I didn’t believe it. It wasn’t until that day, right before Christmas when I got the call that I was a big sister that things began to set it.

My older sister and I drove to the hospital in silence. Right before we walked into the room to meet our brother, I grabbed her hand and without saying anything we shared a moment of being just us, the two sisters. And then we held him, our baby brother James, and everything changed.

I didn’t know you could love someone so quickly. I felt absolutely nothing before walking into that room and then all at once, I felt everything. He was beautiful. He was ours.

We looked at each other again, it was no longer just the two of us, but two was such a finicky number anyways.

Watching him grow has been amazing in ways I could have never imagined. Growing up being the younger sister, I was excited to finally be someone’s older sibling. I thought I would be able to boss him around, teach him to drive and eventually show him how to sneak out of the house. I thought I would be helping him take on the world. I imagined it all. But I imagined it all very wrong.

Since the day James has come into my life, I feel different. I feel as though I’m learning along with him. It’s spectacular to see the raw and beautiful emotions that stream across his face when he experiences new things. To see the joy in his eyes and hear his pure genuine giggle when something entertains him. It’s magical. I didn’t know something could be so untouched, so innocent, so full of hope and belief in the beauty that exists in the world.

I’m in constant awe.

By watching him grow, I’ve grown. The most important thing I’ve realized is that the spark for life that exists in a child never has to die. That desire to wonder and discover, that complete utter fascination for experiencing new things, that ability to love so unselfishly and without fear doesn’t seize to exist with age unless you allow it to. You just have to choose to revive it and make a conscious effort to commit to keeping that spark alive every day.

As an adult, you know pain, and loss and loneliness. You know what it feels like to be betrayed, to have your hopes crushed, to be rejected. You know what it’s like to lose your grandparents and to have work and obligations get in the way of you chasing your dreams. You will know all these things, that children like my brother James, are lucky enough to not know just yet. But knowing these things shouldn’t stop us from searching for and appreciating the good in life. Nothing should ever stop us from that.

You should still try new things with optimism, even with the knowledge that there is a chance they may not work out the way you hope. You should still appreciate the sunset when you get the chance to see it, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it before. You should still take the time to listen and dance to your favourite song on a random Wednesday night after a long day at work. You should ignore the news for a night, remain ignorant to all the problems that exist in the world and hug your mom, hug her really tight.

I’ve seen my little brother see his first sunset, take his first steps, hear his first song and right there beside him, I appreciate what it is he is experiencing for the first time as if it my own first time. I laugh with him unapologetically about something as simple as a grape rolling across the kitchen floor or the dog chasing his tail. Most importantly, I look at my dad with the same eyes as he does. As a man he doesn’t yet know is not invisible or immune to time and aging.

My dad having another child has taught me a lot about life. I’ve changed in more ways than I thought I would. We all have.

Sometimes I feel bad for James. When I was growing up I had children my age around me all the time, and he doesn’t have that. His cousins are married, his sisters are adults, he’ll never meet our grandma and grandpa. I want to hug him. I want to thank him and tell him he’s the best gift our family could ever be given. It isn’t hard to see that having a child around has made us all better people.

I see the amusement in my dad when he re-watches his favourite childhood movie with James. I see the youthfulness in my step mom when she dances around to music with James after a stressful day at work. I see the amazement in my sister when she sees him learn something remarkable like taking his first step or saying his first word. And I see it in myself, when I am able to look at something that with time has become so common and bland as if it is a masterpiece that I’m seeing for the first time.

When I first heard that my dad was having another child, I was scared, selfish and worried things would change for the worse. That he’d be too busy with his new responsibility, that he would forget about me and I’d be forced to become an real adult before I was ready to take that leap. But those things didn’t happen and what did happen is so much better than I could ever have imagined.

In a way, with my brother being born, we’ve all been reborn and instead of teaching him about the world, we’re discovering the world along with him. TC Mark

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