Number four was a bit of a surprise package. One too many she thought, until my mom reminded her that she, too, was a surprise package, also Number Four. It was really all thanks to me, four years her senior, and my persistent moaning that I didn’t always want to be the “youngetht”. We have two big brothers. Four is the perfect number of children; my husband comes from a family of four also, and like me, he’s Number Three. So when Kirsten announced her fourth pregnancy we were all delighted. She was not too charmed, let’s face it, such a big family is a massive job especially for mom and a huge cost, but like young lovers, all ablush and blissfully happy, we all couldn’t wipe the smile off our faces at the prospect of another baby.
Another baby! There is nothing in the world like it, we all go weak at the knees, soft in the heart and sometimes a little damp around the eyes. I live too far away when her two big boys were born, to visit her in hospital, but two years ago we all peered at little day-old Thorsti through the glass of the nursery room in the maternity ward. One can’t help misting up, a whole new little person has magically appeared on earth. A new person no one has ever seen, no one has met yet; a little person one instantly feels overwhelming love for, although he is actually a complete stranger.
Thorsti’s been enjoying his reign as family baby, with aunts and uncles, grandparents and big brothers adoring him, struck in love by his magical baby spell. Now a new one will arrive at their home and suddenly he’ll be the big brother. We always marvelled how, when a new puppy or kitten arrived in our midst, the other animals would suddenly look so big by comparison. I eagerly await seeing the big brother with his baby sibling – no one knows what it’s going to be, well, except for Doc Haddles of course, but he’s good at keeping sweet secrets – to see how big our little monkey looks by comparison to a new born. Will he, like Macavity, suddenly look all grown up? His big brothers know what’s coming, but he is blissfully unaware of the eminent arrival of another person in the family. Someone to play with, and of course all importantly all kids know, someone to fight with! Siblings are thrown together by no choice of their own, bonded by blood and genes, a familiar upbringing and all that. We can choose our friends, the saying goes, but we can’t choose our family. You love each other because you’re a family, it’s like you have no choice in the matter. And one doesn’t ever fight with anyone as one does with a sibling, even as adults. It dawned on me this week, when my eldest brother was in town on business, my second brother travelled up to see us and we all gathered around my sisters dining room table, spouses in tow and her 3.9 children, that there’s more to a sibling than just genes and coincidence. We’re a fairly quirky family, we’re headstrong (each in a different direction), we’re loud and opinionated, we all talk at once, we’re all a bit odd in our own way, but if it were up to me I couldn’t have chosen them better if I’d done it myself. My siblings are so much more than any friend could be. We are, all of us, so in tune with one another, even if we haven’t seen each other in years – the last time we were all together was at my eldest brother’s wedding four years ago, hardly much quality time to be had there – we just get each other. There’s an instant understanding and a harmony – and sometimes a noisy disharmony too – that one simply doesn’t share with anyone else.
I couldn’t imagine my family or my life without our Number Four, my brave, clever and also fairly noisy little sister. And I know some days her boys will feel the same way about the little package in imminent arrival…. And I’ll be there for Thorst to share some of the burdens that being Number Three brings with it, and teaching him some cunning tricks. Another baby! I can’t wait!