The day my sister Kelly was born, I ran around our house in circles, weeping and screaming, “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING.” I just wanted a dog.
When my mother went into labor the day my sister Kelly was born, I very helpfully ran around our house in circles. weeping and screaming “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING” until my uncle picked me up and my parents went off to the hospital. I did not want to let go of my only child status. I really just wanted a dog and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t an option instead of a baby sister.
Growing up, Kelly was always a little too young to really be able to join in on the games my friends and I played, but my mother sent her along with me most of the time anyway. As you can imagine, I was not ever overcome with joy at the prospect of dragging my little sister with me or sharing my stuff with her. Now I’m a parent and I understand why my mother did this. Kids are wonderful, but man, they are exhausting; a lot of times you just want them to go away for five minutes. But mostly, she forced us to learn to be together and at least tolerate each other, because she had one of those magical mom crystal balls that told her someday, we would need each other. We would fight and bicker and tattle to my parents. They would refuse to intervene and instead tell us to figure it out.
“You two will always have each other so you better figure out for yourselves how to get along.”
I know what that means now.
Kelly is five years younger. She’s taller, blonder, more organized, less likely to forget her keys, and more likely to weep at the National Anthem. If you put the directions to a Pinterest craft in front of us, she will create something beautiful that looks better than the picture, and I will wind up in the hospital covered in chalkboard paint with third degree hot glue gun burns. I am the Josh Lyman to her Sam Seaborn. I was never prouder of anyone than I was of her the day she gave her Valedictorian speech at her high school graduation. She cried on the phone with me when we put our beloved dog to sleep. Kelly was the maid of honor at my wedding and the very first person I wanted to call when our son was born.
And I still can still make her so very, very angry by reminding her that when she was three, she used to cheat at Memory.
As we grow older and our friends grow older, I’m beginning to see glimpses of what it will be like to care for aging parents. I’ve seen how difficult it is for my husband to face these stresses without the benefit of a sibling for backup, and I’ve seen the same kind of stress in friends who have siblings that don’t show up. When I think about what the future may hold, I’m grateful for all the times my mom forced me to share my toys and sent my little sister tagging along with me. I know that when I need backup, Kelly will always be there.
When my husband and I discuss whether or not we want to expand our family, we mostly agree that one child is more than enough. And yet every time we talk about it, the same thing gives me pause. I tell my husband that I’m not sure it’s fair for our little boy to grow up without a sibling they can count on. He always tells me the same thing: it’s not a sibling I want for our son; what I want is for him to have an exact copy of Kelly. And there is only ever going to be one of her.