Siblings without rivalry

The bank said yes. I was a quarter hoping they’d say no. My selfish quarter. The bit of me who’d like the weight of all this to be removed by a faceless third party. The other three quarters of me are very grateful that we can now start to make plans as a family. Get behind number one and help him to rise to this new challenge and hope that we can all somehow find the courage to enjoy my expanding portfolio of delicious ‘rice meals on a budget’ for the next twelve months…..
The whole thing terrifies me. Twenty years ago, I’d not have given the consequences of borrowing beyond my means two hoots. Now, with maturity and dependants working against me, I’ve been totting up ‘unnecessary monthly expenditure’ in my sleep. All mine, by the way: Wine; cigarettes; haircuts; and top of the range age-defying beauty products that don’t work. Frighteningly, the tot-up total isn’t far off the monthly loan repayment. But I still need to squeeze the family finances a little more.
So, I thought, as I sat my three babes down for the ‘sacrifices we all have to make’ chat, if I’m to become a long-haired, wrinkly, alcohol and tobacco free zone for the sake of my son’s education (I’m not quite ready to consider potential health benefits as an ancillary plus of any kind…..I’m sure that will come, once I’ve cracked my addictions and entered into the delirious phase) its surely not unreasonable to ask them to:
1. ALWAYS turn off lights, unless you are actually in the room AND need light;
2. NEVER throw clean clothes on the floor or in the washing basket because you can’t be bothered to hang that wrong choice back up;
3. WEAR deodorant as this will not only make you more appealing to others around you, but also means that you MAY be able to wear jumpers twice before they need washing;
4. LEARN to hate seafood, steak, duck and all (disgustingly unhealthy anyway) take-aways as these treats are now off the menu, apart from the occasional ‘Mardi Malin’ at PizzaHut and any luxuries that I can fight for in the M&S evening price-slash;
5. GRACIOUSLY accept ‘no’ if I tell you there is no money for you to go to the cinema EVER.
6. GET yourself a part-time job if you are over sixteen and DO NOT complain when I expect you to actually spend your own money (as an aside – Please also CONSIDER buying other people presents. You may even find this rewarding….); and
7. ACCEPT that mum is going to be a little bit tired and a lot miserable for a (considerably long) while. DO NOT fault her for this. DO NOT even think frustration. Mum has already sacrificed the delights of a social life for your benefit and will now be eliminating (most) indoor treats from her life too. Mum hates rice but is determined to embrace it in all forms for the next twelve months. This is a bigger sacrifice than any of you are being asked to make….
The chat went well. Unpredictably well. We managed five minutes without anyone checking a screen or fake burping. I was just about to launch into a re-hash of what I’d already said, when my daughter looked up and said ‘C’est bon mummy. C’est notre grand frère’.
And that was that. I was catapulted back to reading them this bedtime story, ‘Mon Grand Frère’ by Pauline Martin. They all used to find it hilarious. My daughter, because she felt it was written for her, with the little sister in the book narrating her thoughts and my boys because they associated with the big boy character. His long hair and penchant for actively ignoring his little sister and eating her share of dinner if she looked the other way. They seemed to miss the subliminal stuff that children’s stories often carry. But two pages would always grab me and make me smile: when the little girl observes that big brothers sometimes get sad and cry and then the final page, when the little sister says (after the latest indignity of being hunted by her big bro with a toy gun) that you can’t just change a big brother like that. You have to make do with the one you’ve got.
It seems the subliminal has become the conscious. There is no need to understand why your big brother is sad, nor should we try to change him. We love and support him, just as he is and thats all that counts.