Parentification

I was an only child for 8 years, and I knew I didn’t want any siblings. My mother used to look after my cousin Brent quite often. Brent was 3 years younger than me and my mother had always favoured him.

She was always so loving towards Brent. Hugs and kisses, the lot. A side I never saw from my mother, I’m not going to lie, I was jealous; so I wasn’t Brent’s biggest fan. There was one time Brent and I were eating scrambled egg when he threw up right onto his plate and all over the table; possibly even onto my plate too, everything looked like scrambled egg. I didn’t really want to eat my breakfast after this, not knowing if I would be eating vomit, but my mother forced me to stay there and eat my food while she cleaned Brent up. She didn’t even clean the vomit off the table.  So I had to sit there and smell it, while trying to keep my own breakfast down. Still to this day, I don’t particularly like scrambled egg; especially the gooey kind.

There was another time when Brent had stayed over and we had both slept in my mother’s bed. When I woke up Brent wasn’t in the bed and I was soaking wet. I went into the living room to find him and my mother looking at the snow out of the window. “Why am I all wet?” I asked. My mother looked at me and said “oh Brent wet the bed”  I stood there absolutely disgusted, my mother knew I was sleeping covered in urine and she just left me there.

Brent was always destroying my toys, whether it be by cutting the hair off my collection of My Little Ponies or ripping my books up. I was never allowed to be upset though. When he broke my Barbie house by sitting on it and making the whole thing collapse, I threw him out of my room and told him I hated him. My mother didn’t even ask what had happened, she sent me straight to bed with no dinner. If this was the way Brent was treated, I NEVER wanted brothers or sisters.

However the day I had always dreaded finally came and my mother announced she was having a baby. I cried and cried. I didn’t want to have to fight for her attention anymore than I already did.

Eventually my sister Kara arrived. She was so tiny, she smelt so new and fresh; I finally understood what people meant when they went on about that baby smell. She had a red baby grow on when I met her for the first time. I remember helping my mother bathe her in her little baby bath, the smell of Johnson’s baby products always reminds me of this day. I wanted to smell just like her and squeezed into her bath after she was finished.

My sister’s father wasn’t around much. So I used to help my mother a lot, sometimes she would even leave me alone with Kara while she popped to the shops. Kara would lie there asleep on the bed and I would have to sit and watch her. I would be sat there thinking about how much I didn’t like her, as since she came along I had to act as a parent rather than a sister. Perfecting how to change a nappy at the age of eight wasn’t something to class as an achievement. All I wanted to do was play with my Barbies.

One night when Brent and Laura; his little sister, were over to stay my mother called me out of bed, her and my step father were in her room with Kara and my mother said she had something to tell me. “You are going to have another brother or sister”. These words ripped through me, everything went quiet and I was screaming inside. I cried; more than I had when she told me about Kara. I told her I didn’t even want the sister I had let alone anymore. I was distraught, another baby that I would have to help my mother take care of, another baby that would take away any hope I had left of being a child.

In what seemed like no time at all my brother Kevin arrived. I don’t remember my first meeting with Kevin as well as I do Kara’s. There was 13 months between Kara and Kevin, so now at the age of eight; soon to be nine, I was a pro at looking after two babies. I was late for school every day; when I was attending that is.

I remember the routine like it was yesterday. My mother would wake us up; I would give the babies their bottles while my mother went for a shower. I would then have to change both babies’ nappies and get them dressed. All whilst sitting through the torture of ‘Milkshake’ a morning programme on Channel 5 that played baby programmes. By the time all of this was done my mother would be ready and I would then go off to have my breakfast and get myself ready for school.

I loved going to school at this time, it was a break away from playing mother to my siblings and I actually got to be a child for a while. My mother still had me off school a lot of the time though, one afternoon there was a phone call from her at school. The teacher took me to the phone and my mother said that she had told them I might have head lice because she needed to come and get me early. It was a complete lie and I didn’t want to leave, but she came anyway. She probably wanted to have a nap so needed me to watch the babies, this was something I was used to seeing as my mother loved an afternoon nap everyday.

As well as my morning routines with the babies, I also had to watch them when I got home from school. Kara was a handful and I disliked her because she was so naughty, she would do something wrong and I would be the one to get in trouble. After dinner it was bath time. I would have to bathe the babies and get them dressed for bed. My mother liked to have a soak in the evenings; so I would end up having to read bedtime stories and fight them to get into bed. After all of this I was exhausted. I don’t even remember doing homework, but then I was never at school to get any.

As I got older and Kara and Kevin started school, it was then my job to iron their school uniforms for them too. When Brent and Laura we over my mother always seemed go off the the supermarket quite late, so she would leave me at home to watch all four children; I couldn’t have been any older than 11 years old. I would have to keep Brent from making too much noise so that the neighbours would not realise we had been left alone. My mother would be gone for 3 hours minimum and this happened quite often.

Brent and I weren’t always on good terms either. My mother still favoured him and as he got wiser to it he would play on it; I don’t blame him to be honest, who doesn’t want to be the favourite. One day we were having our usual dramas when Brent pushed me into my wardrobe. I fell on my roller blade and really hurt my back. Brent and my mother watched on it hysterics whist I cried in agony, the more they laughed the more I built up with rage. I finally saw red and picked the roller blade up and threw it at Brent’s back. He fell to the floor and started screaming. My mother instantly lost it with me, she grabbed a hanger from my wardrobe and tried to hit me with it. I ran on to the top bunk of my bunk beds so that she couldn’t get me. “Oh, you’re brave enough to try and get away from me are you?” my mother smirked. She then sent Brent up the ladder of the bunk beds with the hanger and instructed him to beat me with it. I hated her, I wanted to grab the hanger off Brent and wack my mother as hard as I could. As Brent continued to beat me, my mother hurled abuse at me and stood there laughing. Brent thought it was great and my mother and him made a joke out of it, by asking me “how’s it hanging?”  Brent still asks me this to this day.

All I ever wanted to do when I was a child was to be a child. To go to school like the other normal children, to play with my toys, to play out with my friends, to watch cartoons. To just enjoy life with no worries.

Instead, I was constantly worrying about the babies jumping on the bed as they might fall off and hurt themselves. Worrying about Brent and Laura making too much noise just being kids, because we had been left alone. Worrying about getting the babies ready in time, to give myself enough time to get dressed so I wouldn’t be late for school.

All of these worries are not the worries a child should have. I shouldn’t have been unable to focus in classes, because I was exhausted from being a mother of two at 9 years old.

I just wish I knew what it was like to be a kid…

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