I thought she died…


not the same picture, but taken around the time of my terrible dream

not the same picture, but taken around the time of my terrible dream

A lot of childhood memories have been floating up to the surface, which I attribute to my wrestling with having an only-child vs. having another child spaced 4-5 years apart. When thinking about all-things-kid-related imagining into the future starts with progressing into the past in order to see…how would I have felt, which is narcissistic at it’s core (because Potamus is not me), but that’s what I’m working with right now. And so, imagining a 4-5 year age spread means going back into my past and remembering what it was like when my sister was born…er…adopted into my family.

I was 5.

We drove from Seattle to Oregon where she had been born.

We had a necklace or some other gift that my brother (2 years younger than me) walked up to the lady in the hospital bed, and gave to her. I think we said something like “thank you,” and that’s all I remember (more could be said about this bizarre memory, as it was a concrete experience of what adoption-birthfamilies was, but I didn’t really analyze that until older). The next thing I remember is we were on our way home, somewhere up I-5 and I realized…I had left my favorite Skipper doll in the hospital.

And they wouldn’t go back to get my Skipper doll.

We came home with a baby, and I lost my doll.

And I lost my position in the family as the only girl.

The princess.

And I was at an age where I was embracing my princess-tomboy style, but I was clearly no longer the only girl, and she, in all her tiny bundle of joyness, became the family princess.

I don’t remember much about my sister until she was in pre-school. Coming home on the first day, eagerly declaring “I like TEN BOYS in my class, there’s Jordan, Taylor, etc,” and me saying “that’s not how it works. You don’t get to like more than one boy at a time. you grow up and marry one person.” But she was always the princess. And I grew into a new role…the protector.

can you see my annoyance with her fabulousness?

can you see my annoyance with her fabulousness?

Both jealous and protective of this fragile, dainty, cheerleading popular kiddo (who grew into a fragile, dainty, cheerleading popular, fashionable adult), who was so different than me, and mostly annoyed me. We shared a room and she wanted to talk all night. I wanted to sleep. She wanted to play dress up. I wanted to read. But in preschool, I remember a photo of her was taken. She was holding a plastic pan, and looks caught by surprise. And it was hanging on our mirror the time I had the dream.

In the dream, we were in Disneyland, and she died.

I was horrified.

I woke up crying.

I carried that picture with me until I hit college (and she stole it back) because that’s how I remembered her, so young and innocent and for me to protect as her big sister.

And so, I think about things like that when I think about having another baby someday. That the dynamic will change. That there will be complicating factors and emotions and memories that Potamus will have of the time he had alone and the time he had when the sibling enters the scene. It will be different than my own memories. And if he doesn’t have a sibling he will not have those memories to look back on. It’s complicated and emotional on many different levels.

My relationship with my sister is currently also complicated. I will always be her big sister, protective, blunt, and loyal, but also jealous of her carefree swagger.

How are your sibling relationships? How has it influenced your decision to have/not have kids (or to have more) kids? Have any striking childhood memory involving siblings?

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4 Comments

  1. I have a half brother. I hardly know him so sometimes friends find out only later that he exists and they say to me: how is it I didn’t know you had a brother???
    Well… I think these are titles you get from your family but to me the title only becomes special if there is a special connection that develops. Meaning: I have a brother that is reality but I cannot add anything more to it because we have connection between us.

    My older sister like my half brother was not invited to our wedding. This sometimes help people understand the complicated relationship I have with my siblings.

    My older sister was always hurt about the past. This became the present for her in my opinion. We were very different from the beginning and she never understood why our parents “tolerate” the fact that I like barbie dolls, McDonalds and shinny bracelets instead of poetry, playing chest and watching art movies. 8 years ago we got in to a major argument and haven’t spoken with each other since.

    I also have a younger sister who always lives on a different continent than I do and she is not the prototype for a good pen friend.

    It can be interesting to hear how people are with their siblings but I do not think it should matter when it comes to your decision.

    I like to focus on one person at a time. One child and one adult is still a nice atmosphere for me. That is why we are sticking with having one child.

    xoxo, Eszter

    • I love your line “I like to focus on one person at a time.” Even if we add to our brood someday, I want to keep that perspective. And right now the one-one relationship is AMAZING!

      I resonate, too, with the complicated sibling relationships. I have 6 total, and my two half siblings on my birth mom’s side aren’t in my life much, and my two half siblings that are 9 and 14 are more like nieces. And my adoptive siblings aren’t really close to me, either.

      I think no matter what there is probably always a little ‘grass is greener somewhere else’ thinking going on.

    • Yeah, some people tell me it’s good to have them together for the younger years, but I don’t know if twice as much work for them to have a ‘play partner/friend’ is worth the work 😉 But then I know that siblings can have really good relationships as adults. But then I wonder if you had never known your sister would it have been fine, too? I mean, I have 1/2 siblings who are in my life on the periphery, but I don’t feel close to them at all because we didn’t grow up together.

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