My older brother is having his first baby. It’s exciting and awesome. A couple of years ago, that’s all it would have been. This time it’s different. This time the life altering change is happening to someone I’ve known my entire life. For the first time, news of an expected newborn fills me with more than awe.
After the initial excitement wore off, my head filled with questions. How will his life change? Will he be able to keep the baby alive? Will the baby stay healthy? Will it be colicky? Will it grow up to be autistic? Will it be coddled? Will it be neglected? Will my brother provide the best circumstances possible for it to live long and prosper?
I bombarded my brother with these questions during his most recent visit. I didn’t do this to discourage him. Rather, I needed to know that he was at least scared, and worried–because at least that means he’ll have given the possibility of failing as a parent some thought. (From my understanding, we are less likely to fail when we’ve prepared for failure.) My brother brushed my questions off, saying that they’ll figure it out one step at a time. Things will work out.
When we were kids, we used to have fish. Fish that we “caught” from the fish farm stands in our local night market– the stand consists of a cart with a huge tank of small fish, and children play “fishing”. If we caught the fish, we got to choose between letting the fish go or bringing them home. My brother and I always chose to bring ours home. And then they would die after three days, no matter how closely we watched them.
Sure, babies aren’t fish, and my brother is no longer ten years old. The normal distractions that would keep a child away from tending to his fish are not the same as the distractions of a man in his late twenties. I don’t doubt that my brother is responsible and I know he would be a good parent. And if not, then he could always learn.
What scares me, truly, is the inevitability of my own choices. Witnessing my brother’s dilemma makes me think of my own future. Maybe I’ll have kids, maybe I won’t–the one thing I had known for certainty was that I wanted them. At least three, I’d always say when discussed among friends. I spoke of my desire for children and family with a conviction that most young girls possessed. And now? I’m not so sure.
I think of the way I view parents. Serious, authoritarian, responsible. Most days, I am none of those things. I’m sure that if and when I do end up having children, I would force myself to grow–but there is that nagging fear: will I be enough? How can I be 100% sure that I will give those babies the best life they could possibly have?