From the Editors: In this essay, recent college graduate SJ Enloe reflects on how a 19-year age difference between her and her little brother causes her to think carefully about motherhood.
“Mom, can I have some chocolate milk?”
I stare at Isaac, who looks puzzled for a moment then giggles.
“Sarah, can I have some chocolate milk?” I nod and grab the Ovaltine.
“I called you mom,” he snickers.
It’s not uncommon for my brother to call me mom. After a few years of trying, my mom discovered she was pregnant a month shy of her 40th birthday. I was 18-years-old and just finishing my first year of college. My sister and I had no idea our mom and step-dad had been trying to have a baby, so her pregnancy came as a complete shock.
We tagged along for her 18-week ultrasound so the whole family could be there to find out his gender. Soon after, one of my aunts suggested that I throw my mom’s baby shower. I spent that summer driving around buying favors, decorations, and the like, all the while telling my mom I was going out with friends or just buying new clothes. I organized family members and friends to help out and surprise my mom, and it all came together perfectly.
My brother was born on November 14, 2012, a little more than a month after my 19th birthday. I was there to witness his birth (as much as I tried to look away) and cut his umbilical cord. I like to think it was that moment that my brother and I became inseparable.
Before my brother was born, I spent most of my time in my room, barely seeing my family – despite living under the same roof. Now I’m almost always playing with toy cars or sitting with him watching whichever Peanuts DVD is his favorite that week.
Though I sometimes find myself forgetting I’m not his parent, I also frequently forget my age. Playing board games and going along with the latest game he’s made up are my favorite past-times. Sometimes, if the TV has been left on, I’ll sit alone watching Curious George or Sesame Street.
We often look at toddlers crying over silly little things and laugh, but taking a little time to play along with my brother helps to show me that my problems are just as silly and laughable.
In those moments when I feel like I’m his mother, I contemplate whether or not I actually want to be a mother. My fiancé and I talk about it fairly often, and we’re both on the fence. Until the last few months, he’s never really wanted kids. For much of my life, I operated under the assumption that I was supposed to be a mother. I knew it was my choice, but became afraid to explore that choice. It’s a huge decision to make and there’s so much that goes into it, and I’m afraid of making the wrong choice. My brother, however, forces me to have that discussion with myself.
In moments when my brother is bratty and acting up, I immediately push the thought of motherhood from my mind. On several occasions I’ve texted my mom, “your son’s being a terror, and I’m never having children.” Then there are moments when we’re cuddled on the couch, and he’s being sweet as can be, giving lots of hugs and kisses and being much better behaved than usual, and I think “this isn’t so bad.”
I have some time before I make any decision on the subject, but I’m glad I have some first-hand experience in mothering to help me make a more informed decision. Until then I’ll continue making chocolate milk and playing mom.
S.J. Enloe is a recent graduate of Westfield State University, who enjoys writing and walking into walls; she can’t avoid it, so she’s learned to live with it. You can read more from her on her website or at The So-Called Right Track.