“Will you be coming over tomorrow?”
“Mmm not sure, maybe”.
“But you have to, it’s my birthday!”
“I’m not sure Brian, we’ll see”.
“Okay then. See you tomorrow”.
Over the weekend I met a girl in her late teens, who seemed pretty anxious about meeting her dad and his new girlfriend. I asked if she liked the girlfriend, to which she replied “not really”. I asked why not and she said “I don’t know, just don’t”.
I laughed. I remember feeling similarly towards my own step-mum (a word my family hate but use anyway) and encouraged the girl to give her dad’s new girlfriend a chance. “You might be surprised how things develop over time, you may even grow to like her”. The girl was skeptical, but then, I once was too.
Things are rarely as black and white as they seem. Stepmothers aren’t always wicked witches and stepdaughters aren’t always banished to the basement. Being the complex species that we are, acting out in unkind ways doesn’t necessarily mean we are unkind people.
I remember when my step-mum fell pregnant the first time. It was a bizarre experience because I desperately wanted to be happy for her, but just couldn’t. I struggled with the idea of having a new sibling, resistant to change and wanting to remain “the youngest”. Most of all, I didn’t want to share my dad and be forgotten.
I didn’t know how I would feel about Brian, my unborn baby brother. Would I love him the same way I loved my older one? Would he accept me as his sister or would I be more like a distant aunt based on our wide age gap?
I needn’t have worried.
The moment I laid my eyes on him, I was a goner. I remember my step-mum, lying in the hospital bed with a small white bundle in her arms and as I peered closer, my heart. Just. Melted.
Honestly, I remember thinking he was quite a strange shade of greyish-blue (I mean, he’d literally just been born) but still, he was perfect.
It really was love at first sight. In those few moments, I realised that my tiny brother was totally innocent; he held no malice. His birth took away nothing from my life and instead, gave me so much love, happiness and comfort.
And that love only grew stronger and stronger. After Brian learned to walk he would run around the room with his arms spread wide and straight into my arms. He would cry every time I left the house and jump excitedly on my return.
Even if I had resisted, he would have won me over because he gave his love so freely; throughout his mother’s pregnancy I never considered the joy a baby brings.
Brian’s arrival brought the whole family together. It’s as if he and Bradley (born 3 years later) were the missing components to our family unit. Shortly after Brian’s birth, my birth mum and dad began speaking again. We began doing things as one (birthdays, holidays, dinners etc), and did so for enjoyment over obligation. We rebuilt our concept of what a family should be, putting aside petty differences and finding our new normal.