The other day I was for a walk with Arun and Meri and stopped to chat to a neighbour. After asking how both of the kids were, she looked at them, sat in their buggy and said, “People are going to think they are twins soon.
Arun is, in fact, two years older than Meri but the same thought has occurred to me many times and it triggers a tsunami of conflicting emotions. Whilst I am immensely proud of Meri’s growth, the fact that she will soon be outstripping Arun just throws the difficulties he faces into stark contrast.
In a normal family one would expect the elder sibling to be bigger, stronger and more able. The younger sibling would learn from the elder whilst maintaining a healthy rivalry. However, with my two children it has always been much more a relationship of equals. Because of his premature birth and disabilities Arun is small for his age and is behind in most aspects of his development. Meri, on the other hand is perfectly normal in all ways and is, if anything, a little tall for her age.
Meri is already more decisive and assertive than Arun. She is better co-ordinated and stronger and so when it comes to a contest between the two, Meri normally wins. When they have a spat over a particular toy that degenerates into pushing and pulling, Meri is usually the one left holding the disputed object. When they are crawling and toddling about the house Meri often pushes past Arun who is more hesitant in his movements. I am sure that most of you can understand my mixed feelings of both joy and sadness when I witness these events.
My children, however, are unencumbered by such ambivalence. They are growing up as a happy, normal brother and sister, becoming friends and companions. Both seem to understand that the other is different in some ways and they are starting to show affection to each other in the ways that they know how. When Arun drops a toy he is playing with, Meri will often go and pick it up and give it back to him. When Meri toddles past him Arun will often reach out to her and give her a big hug whilst saying in the cutest possible way, “Meri hug!”
The fact of the matter is that there is a more profound story of growth and development emerging in front of me. Both of my children are growing in ways that I could never have imagined. Arun, by simply taking a few steps has shown determination and application that matches that of an Olympic athlete. Given his disadvantages, what he is achieving is truly remarkable. Meri on the other hand is showing incredible compassion and empathy. She looks adoringly at her big brother and the love and consideration she shows him melt my heart.
I know that I won’t always be around to look after my children. I intend to raise them so that they can look after themselves. However, the thing that will make me happiest as a father is if they learn to look after each other. From what I have seen so far, I have some reason to be optimistic.