1AM: our house was silent except for Brownie’s occasional whimper. His illness was at its worst. I had spent hours futilely attempting to give him medicine. I liked Brownie, my sister’s hamster, just as much as any small child likes candy: enough to care but not enough to cry over. However, I kept watch not for myself, but for my sister Rebecca. I knew Brownie was going to die, but she loved that hamster more than anything, so in turn, I did too.
I was nine years old when my mother told me she was pregnant. I had always wondered what it would be like having a sibling. My parents told me that I might not get much attention once the baby came, because babies need a lot more care and assistance than someone my age. Music to my ears: this meant unlimited television, games, and free time! While my parents were busy with my little sister, I would be off in my world of freedom.
What else could one expect of a naive nine-year-old? The day Rebecca was born, I brought her a small, brown-spotted dog blanket, with a cute puppy head. I smiled as she cuddled it in her tiny baby arms. Eight years later, she still uses that blanket for comfort. I like to think that the blanket vicariously gives Rebecca my love.
Due to our nine year age difference, I am more like her parent than her brother. At first, my care-taking abilities were limited to simple tasks: basic feeding, reading, brushing teeth. As I grew older, I babysat for full days, took care of her when she was ill, and tended her many needs. Being a “third” parent taught me lessons I could not have experienced from any classroom or teacher. I learned to be caring, loving, creative, understanding, patient, and most of all, I learned to be responsible. A parent would do anything for the health and sake of their child. If Rebecca didn’t want to get up and brush her teeth, then I would have to find a way to get her to do so. First, I would learn how to help Rebecca, then I would learn to help myself. In a sense, the teacher then became the student.
In ninth grade biology, I struggled. I had trouble grasping the material. Yet, a parent wouldn’t let their child fall behind, so why should I let myself? I took success into my own hands and spent hours going through textbooks, finding learning strategies that worked for me. Through caring for Rebecca, I learned that if I struggled, I had to push myself to work hard in the same way I would teach Rebecca to work hard. With that resolve, I spent my free time studying and keeping up with my busy schedule, schoolwork, and musical studies. This “parenting effect” now extends into how I approach my everyday activities. Having this unique quality helps me to be more intellectual and intuitive. More and more, I realized the increased willingness of others around me to trust me with special tasks and responsibilities. I never expected that.
I learned through experience that parenting is much more than just raising a child. Parenting is about the qualities one acquires from human interaction, and how those qualities shape us into who we are. Looking back, I definitely spent more time caring for Rebecca than on all of the video games and TV I had dreamed about. I used to think that parents always knew what was best for their children; yet, the truth is that the children are the ones teaching the parents. When a child learns to walk, the parent learns to help a child walk. It’s a balance. As much as Rebecca learned from me while she was growing up, I learned just as much beside her.