I've talked about the pregnancy fantasy before, but the truth of the matter is... I'm a little afraid to have kids.
It all started when my mom got knocked up my senior year of college. I guess it's not really knocked up when the father is your dad, but when your parents have a kid after a 19 year quiet spell it does beckon a small side bar about "using protection next time." Of course new life is exciting, blah blah, and indeed, I was excited to have a new edition to the family. I envisioned myself the pirate, and my new little sibling as the parrot. We would be simpatico, kindred spirits crossing this 21 year divide. I would teach him to be witty and irreverent, a small version of me I could mold to my own Frankenstein wishes.
But as always, the monster will turn against the master.
My baby brother Kendall was born in April of 2005, and his first year of life coincided with my first year out of college and back home. Thus began my rude awakening to the trials of baby raising. First off, babies have mad accessories. What used to be a ten minute trip to the store turns into a 45 minute foray preparing for the wilds of suburbia. My mom went back to work sometime after his birth, and I became the nanny. This was perfectly imperfect timing, because though my mother now had someone trustworthy to stay home with her kid, I had to spend afternoons softly thumping my head against walls while mourning the loss of my college life, bouncing a baby who was pissed that I wasn't his mom. I'm going to say it - before six months, babies are boring. Flat out. You can't get 'em to laugh, all they do is eat and sleep and poop. That's it. ZZz.
I would call my mom like the unhappy homemaker - when are you coming home? Where are you now? No, you need to come home directly, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Come get your baby lady.
It was bouncing and rocking and burping and changing and crying. Lots and lots and lots of crying. Some days me and Kendall would trade off tears, it got that bad. Trapped in a SUV with a crying three-month-old has similar affects to being tortured at Abu Ghraib. Fuck the Xtina, you want to torture a terrorist? Lock them in an SUV with a crying and cranky baby.
Of course there were wonderfully magically moments (mostly involving sleeping), however I'd been pissed on, puked on, pooped on, and berated by a child who didn't even have teeth. I was cool on parenting for a smooth minute.
So those were the infant years. I moved out of the house in the throws of toddlerhood, so luckily I didn't sustain much trauma from the terrible twos.
But now, my brother is five, and is becoming a kid. And... maybe... an asshole.
Don't get me wrong - I love my brother. He's a terribly funny and entertaining kid, who (from growing up around a bunch of adults) is wise beyond his years. However it takes one to know one. And as lovable as I was growing up, I am also keenly aware that I was an asshole child.
I was what polite people would classify as "busy." Just south of Dennis the Menace in trouble making, I was always getting caught up in some harebrained trouble. Of some of my asshole childhood schemes:
1. I once tied my younger brother to a chair so I could peel the dead skin off his feet. Yes, it was gross, but I also knew it'd be funny to see.
2. One time I hid my father's car keys in a pile of laundry and watched them search the house frantically for 10 minutes before pulling them out like triumphant Las Vegas magician.
3. Oh mom, is this your pearl necklace? Oops, its not anymore. I broke more necklaces that anyone would care to remember.
4. One of my favorite pastimes was lathering myself in Vicks Vapor Rub, pouring full containers of Ajax down the toilet, and sticking beads up my nose with my other bad ass cousin, who was only 11 months younger than me.
5. When I was five I'd ask my mom where babies came from just to watch her squirm. Don't ask how I knew the real answer to the question, but I liked watching her fumble for something to say, attempting to deflect the question because ultimately she didn't want to tell me the truth.
I'm not going to blame any of this on childhood innocence. I was a very smart kid, and almost always knew I was getting over on. Suffice it to say, I know a child asshole when I see one.
Fast forward to a few months ago. I'm babysitting the baby bro while my parents are gone out of town, and he very suddenly and mysteriously develops pain in his knees. I nudge him out the car, and he stumbles into a crouch on the ground.
"Ahh! I can't walk." Cue the dramatic faux-tears and whiney voice. I haaaaaate the whiney voice.
I smell bullshit.
However, he's got youth and innocence on his side. I didn't want to be the haggard jerk who ends up on the evening news because she ignored the symptoms of a small child. So I am forced to carry him into the house, and plant him on the couch, were he lays for the entire day, watching cartoons.
I know he just wanted to sit there and veg out all day, watching cartoons and being waited on hand and foot by me. I KNEW he was lying.
However when I alerted my mom and sis (the pediatrician) to this ruse, everyone's taking him seriously, treating him like the Prince of Persia. And I'm all like hellooooo, eff the symptoms, can someone give him the super scary speech mom gave us when we were little, about hating liars, and put the fear in his heart that if you lie you risk losing the love of your mother forever and worse yet DISAPPOINTING her?
But no. No one's giving him a speech. Instead they're all asking me to check his temperature, and asking him to do silly exercises, and I feel like the only sane person in the room. Can no one see that is little five-year-old is getting over???
So I kinda break down.
"No one believes me!" My voice quivers into the phone as I'm talking to my sister. "He's in there playing sick, and I'm the one stuck looking insensitive to his pain! He's lying!"
Why was I upset? Because he was using me doggonit. Treating me like Jeffery to his Fresh Prince of Bel Air. And he was lying! I am genetically predisposed to hate liars!
And because it was karma. I was at times a shitty kid, and now I had to deal with this shitty moment with my five-year-old brother.
So I sucked it up. Packed Tiny Tim into the car, purchased some kid ibuprofen, and drugged him up per the doctor's orders. I settled him in on the couch in front of some cartoons.
Then I sat on the back yard, smoking a black and drinking corona. And I don't even smoke. However, this child had literally driven me to drink and smoke, in one fell swoop.
To be to that point scared me. Sure, he's not from my womb, I didn't birth him, but he's my brother. Shouldn't some genetic code kick in to stop me from resenting him right now? I mean, at the end of the day, he is only 5. But I felt torn between being a fun sister and being a responsible sister. Sometimes they seem like two polar opposite beings. I want him to have the experience of having siblings, even if I am old enough to be his mom. But when I'm stuck home alone with him, slipping into the authoritarian role just wasn't comfortable for me. I was stuck between being liked and being respected, and ended up just being pissed.
In the end he finally got the "respect your sister and don't lie" speech from my mom I had been pushing for (and he had in fact been embellishing his symptoms to his own advantage). But I was left a little worried - if you are destined to raise tiny versions of yourself, and if my brother is any type of overture to the show... well I'm not sure if I can really handle a house full of child assholes.