Emily McConville | Thursday, January 22, 2015
Over the last weekend of winter break, my parents went to Florida for a much-needed vacation, leaving me, my brother and my seven-year-old sister, Brigid, home alone for five days. It had occurred to all of us that I am now technically an adult, so it fell to me to take care of Brigid from that Friday to that Tuesday.
Leading up to my parents’ flight out, I was worried. To be fair, watching my second-grade sister for five days isn’t that daunting. She had something planned for every day, whether school, a basketball game or a playdate. I had access to a car, so I could take her to a museum or bookstore to kill a few hours. She went to bed early, so I would have the evenings to myself. My parents also stocked up on food before they left and were available by phone at any point. They also left me a debit card, and I was fairly well-compensated.
Still, I can be pretty spacy when it comes to household things. For that reason, I was terrified. What if I forgot to feed Brigid healthy things and she ate Goldfish and noodles all weekend? What if I didn’t wake up with her and she hurt herself somewhere in the house? What if I forgot to pick her up from her friend’s house? What if we ran out of things to do and she got so bored she’d hate me forever? I had never been fully responsible for another person before, and I feared messing it all up.
It was surprising when the weekend went perfectly fine. I woke my sister up when it was time to get up. I let her watch TV. I gave her breakfast. I asked her to eat strawberries, and she did so willingly. I picked her up from school. We ate. We slept. We played. We kept the house clean. When my parents got back she admitted that the weekend had been pretty fun.
The takeaway: I think I’d like to be a mother in a few years (or 10), and I think I understand what that means. Of course, babysitting my sister wasn’t motherhood in microcosm. I watched a relatively quiet and independent seven-year-old for five days. I wasn’t responsible for a colicky infant or a toddler dead-set on exploring electrical outlets. I didn’t feel the bittersweetness of the first day of kindergarten or the fear accompanying a missed call or the anger over a teenager’s first heartbreak. I’m definitely not prepared for that.
But while being responsible for another tiny human being was stressful, the anxiety over somebody else somehow lessened my anxieties about myself. After a semester of worrying about me, my grades and my future, focusing on Brigid made me feel content, capable and even productive. Now, I actually look forward to having my own family.