I was in the middle of composing the most self-pitying, miserable text ever to Hums about how awful it is to be sick while the kids are also sick and that he should just come home even though it was only 11am, when Baji called: “Get ready. We’re coming to pick you up. Spend the day at my place.”
Baji is not only my sister but also my best friend. She has four kids, and I’m convinced she tells them to play extra loudly before she calls me so I can feel better about having only two. They’re among my favourite children in the world, but they’re very EXCITED children, and when they play they always do so at high volumes and with things around them crashing and catching fire. If we were to spend the day at my sister’s house, we could surely look forward to a day of thunderous fun. This was not only enjoyable but extremely beneficial for my kids, who are otherwise inclined towards quiet, solitary play. Hanging out with Baji’s kids forced Beta and Beti out of their mental shells, drew them away from their comfort zones and exposed them to a uniquely active and imaginative form of recreation.
Beta is exactly a year older than Baji’s third kid and Beti is twelve days older than her youngest, so we raise all six of them sort of like siblings.
Is there any relationship more expansive and more formative than that of siblings? I want all these kids to be close, super-best-friends — always-there-for-each-other, close. I want them to have the kind of comfort that comes with having shared a lifetime of experiences together, and I want it to last forever because I believe with my very core that the kind of solace and growth they will derive from this relationship is unmatched by any other.
Maybe my hope for them has more to do with my own feelings towards my sister and brother than any consideration of my children’s for their cousins. I consider my siblings to be two of the smartest, kindest people I have ever known. Through the interests they pursue, the books they read and the conversations they hold, they have introduced me to different worlds of thought that I might never have encountered on my own. I know they always have my back even when I don’t even know that having my back is needed. And whenever I have been too scared to do something, they have given me the encouragement/bullying that I needed.
But if siblings are the ones who force you out of your comfort zone, they are also the ones most respectful of your particular passions. At Baji’s house, while rifling through a drawer, Beta discovered a bag full of colorful little plastic circles. He, being the brainy little boy that he is, was absolutely enamoured. Oh, the mathematical possibilities! “They are actually math manipulatives,” explained Baji. Those circles did nothing for her kids, since you can’t throw/bounce/toss/jump over them. I’m sure according to Beta this was further proof that those kids have absolutely no taste in entertainment, because, if organising hundreds of tiny circles in intricate multiples of seven didn’t appeal to you, nothing would. He spent the rest of the evening arranging and rearranging those circles into complex patterns and his cousins were understanding enough to leave him alone while he did.
People say that when siblings are exceptionally close, it is a testament to their parents having raised them well. This thought makes me appreciate my parents and the wonderful family they created for me, my brother and my sister. But as a parent, I often don’t feel as though I’m raising Beta and Beti well. My siblings have been a comfort here too because, to this day, my parenting doubts, disasters, joys and triumphs are bounced off them, and sharing this journey with them is both fun and a great support.
We stuck around that day long enough to bring in the purple light of dusk, for Hums to join us, for a delicious dinner to be served, and for Baji to subsequently whip up a batch of rasmalai. (I really admire the fact that she has all the ingredients on-hand and can present to us a bowl of chilled, milky happiness in just an hour. Yet another way in which she is superior to me). So we gorged on that for a while and then had a few rounds of minty green tea, too.
Eventually we left because Baji stopped feeding us. We loaded in the car and drove away as my sister, her husband and kids stood waving to us in their doorway.
I love my sister. And my brother too, even though he hasn’t fed me in a while (understandable, since he lives in another country). I guess what I am trying to say is that having family nearby is something I seriously appreciate right now. There’s really nothing quite like a sibling, is there? Who else is going to come pick you and your sick kids up on a Tuesday afternoon and then keep you for dinner too? Who else is going to make you fluffy, sweet rasmalai right when you crave it? Who else is going to have a baggie full of colorful little plastic circles just lying around which fits perfectly into your purse when nobody is looking?
Hiba Masood is a stay-at-home mother to four-year-old Beta and one-year-old Beti. Writing about parenting affords her time away from actually doing it.
Connect with Drama Mama online at www.facebook.com/Etdramamama for more thoughts on the crazy ride of motherhood
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, April 7th, 2013.
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