What if you found out that your child has an aggressive form of leukemia, and that one of the surest ways to save her life, was to genetically engineer another child, one from whom you could harvest stem cells, blood and even organs to save your sick child?
What if you found out that your only reason for existence, is to save your sister’s life?
These were two main issues explored in Jodi Picoult’s award-winning novel, My Sister’s Keeper. I am reading it for my book club this month and man, has this novel got my waterworks going, not only because these were such sad issues, but because some of the things the genetically engineered sister Anna felt, were not unlike the things that I went through as sister to a smarter, ‘gooder’ girl.
Attention. It’s a tricky thing, ain’t it?
As a parent, you learn many things about attention, and how to deal with it in your children. Infants cry for attention because they’re hungry or need a diaper change or are uncomfortable, and we run to them because that is the only manner in which they can communicate their discomfort to us.
When they become toddlers, and start to learn essential words, we expect the crying to lessen, and hence, teach our children to use these words by ignoring their cries. Most of the time, we fail, and cave in to the bawling simply because we cannot stand the noise (especially grandparents!). The more stoic of us will live to tell the wimps that if we ignore those cries for attention long enough, our children will learn to stop.
Isn’t that how it begins, the ignoring? The neglect?
Growing up, I was a rebellious kid, and somehow, because of that, my parents seemed to favour my younger sis more, as if to prevent her from turning into me. Everything is connected. Because my parents favoured her more, she had more of the pressure of being a good kid, because she became determined not to follow in my footsteps. She got the good grades, the merits and distinctions, and made prefect. And this, in turn, intensified my rebellion. While I didn’t do drugs or fail my exams, I did manage to make things very, shall I say, interesting for my parents.
What did they do? They simply continued to ignore me, just as they would’ve if I was two and crying to have my way.
Now that I am a parent of two, I realise that it’s not easy, to give a fair amount of attention to each child. When Sky came into the world ten weeks early, and spent 50+ days hooked onto a ventilator, her lungs filling up with fluid because of an onset of pneumonia and the hole in her heart not showing any signs of closing, it took me away from Rae. And for two years after that, I was always a little more of everything for Sky than I was for Rae, because the doctors told me that the first two years of a preemie were crucial.
And as if she knew, Rae began to act out. She began to cry more, and clung to me more. I knew the signs and I knew how it felt. Those old wounds, itching to crack open.
These days, I try to make it up to Rae (but not too much, you understand). Spending time with her at the Cooperative. Having meals with her, just the two of us, at McDonald’s right before her gymnastics, our own ‘special Mother-Daughter day’.
And I keep reminding myself over and over again that like it or not, perception is reality. That no matter what I think I know, grand gestures matter to a a five year old – and maybe even a fifteen year old.
That she needs to be told that she is loved.
And to be shown that she is loved.
It was what I, as an older child, would have wanted.
Click play to listen to The I’mPerfectMom Podcast, an original audio production featuring Nana by Um Som. Enjoy new music and covers by independent musicians at Dmusic.com, made available under the Creative Commons licence.