They take each other’s hand, an invisible thread binding them, and it’s an image forever burned into my mind.
How silly I was to be disheartened when we learned our second baby would be a boy, as if two girls dictated the kind of closeness I longed my children to share. Children are their own, and just as there are a million different ways they can look, so too are there a million different ways they can bond and forge a relationship that’s entirely theirs.
Sister + sister does not equal Close Relationship any more than brother + brother does, or brother + sister.
I see it already. It stuns me in some moments. As I watch them side by side, the ideals I once had are instantly shattered. It’s my most favourite thing to do – to witness their love language, as if I have nothing to do with anything, as if they are in a world that is only theirs.
I sat with our fortune-teller Nicole a few months back, and she talked a lot about my children. As always, I was shocked by what she knew. When Ella was born, though she loved us, she did not love the world with all its noise and chaos and people grabbing at her. She was overwhelmed and she needed cocooning from it. Thus, my instinct was to filter her from the world. To put up barriers to give her distance from everyone who wanted a piece of her. To create a calm routine for her. To give her time to settle and learn us. This, as it turns out, is exactly what I did. Billy though? – and this is what made me cry – Billy, even when he was still growing inside, had Ella all along. Ella telling him, through their own secret language, all about the world and the people in it and about the places we went and how fun and lovely everything was. And so, Billy never felt overwhelmed because he had Ella every step of the way, every step of the transition from the realm Up There to the world Down Here. Sure, it was still noisy and chaotic for him, but there wasn’t the panic and fear that Ella once had because she was comforting him all along, explaining in detail everything he was feeling and witnessing.
As a result, Nicole said, I never felt as protective over Billy as I did Ella. I never worried about who he was with and about sheltering him from friends and family, or that I had to be there at all times just to pick up on anything, to make sure he was okay. I never reinforced the same routined habits to create safety the same way I did with Ella. He was fine. My instincts told me this, she said, and so I parented in a different way entirely. I sat there nodding, because I just couldn’t speak. This is exactly the way it had been, I’d just not really noticed or acknowledged it before. And I was scared that if I’d opened my mouth, all that would come out would be high-pitched squeaks in between sobs, because the thought of my children loving each other so much was more than I could take.
Nicole then looked at me and said, “You know, your children have a very strong bond. Theirs is a relationship with a long history. Many past lives have been shared together.” And whether I believe in past lives or not, it was the thing that undid me. I let my tears spill from my eyes because the thought that I had given them each other, that I had brought them into this new life to be each other’s people felt so good it hurt.
Right now, the hard uphill first-year trail with a new baby has turned into a smoother, easier descent. Finally, after gallons of sweat and tears, my children go to bed at the same time, sleep during the night without waking and wake up in the morning at a reasonable hour. They nap in the day at the same time without any fuss. They play together, Ella taking Billy under her wings as the patient in “doctors”, the listener in “storytime”, or the canvas in “drawing”, meaning I’ll find him smiling, either a million band-aids stuck to his face, a million pen scribbles on his body, or sitting there beaming at a little girl who is reciting made-up stories about monsters and chocolate and babies who want their mummies.
Right now, a simple hug from Billy is enough to stop a Level 9 melt-down from Ella. The other day, Ella accidentally fell off the bed and started screaming. Billy then started screaming because Ella was hurt, and then they scrambled to each other, hugged, and both instantly stopped crying, patting each other’s backs like I wasn’t even in the room.
Right now, I get to watch the most beautiful relationship blossoming and oh though I watch them annoy each other, I see it only as ripples on the surface – what lies underneath is a deep, still, calm ocean, made up of the most heavenliest water around.
Right now, as I watch them love each other with the kind of free and unself-conscious nature only children have, I hope that as they grow, they keep diving deeper in, finding new ways to swim, news ways to keep each other afloat when the tide gets a little rough.
Because one day, I will have to drop them off at the shore forever, these two hearts that are no longer mine, and watch as they turn to the great big ocean before them and dive in.
What a consolation it will be, to know they have each other to swim with.