I have two beautiful nieces. I see them once a year at Christmas because we can’t afford to travel more often than that, and my brother and SIL aren’t interested in air travel with preschoolers.*
When they found out my SIL was pregnant with their third child right before Christmas, my brother called me and said he had something to tell me. From the tone of his voice I thought he was going to tell me he’d lost his job or that someone was sick — it was definitely Bad-News-In-Hushed-Tones Voice.
He said they were having another baby and he wanted to tell me before our visit so that I would be prepared. He didn’t want to hurt my feelings. He had apparently discussed this at great length with our mother and both of them had determined that I am a hot mess who needs to be handled with care.
I think he was expecting me to have a meltdown right there on the phone. But I really mean what I say about metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha, and I know that babies for them is not the same thing as taking babies away from me. There is not a fixed number of potential babies floating around in the universe. I told him so, and yet he kept pressing.
“I’ll understand if you’re upset.”
“This must be so hard for you.”
And I know he was doing his best, trying to take my fucking infertile feelings into account (he probably Googled “how to tell your broken and crazy washed-up failure of a sister you’re having another baby”). But all I could think, then and now, was boy, he must really think I’m headed for the loony bin to be tiptoeing around this like he is.
This news is not about me. I hate that it has to be about me, that I have apparently made such a spectacle of being a fruitcake that my mom and brother think they have to give me the padded-cell treatment for major family news. I hate that I’m having this reaction to what was a very nice gesture on his part. I hate that they were talking about me behind my back.
So anyway, we went on the trip. And it was good, for the most part. My SIL is feeling fine (she who ran a freaking marathon while pregnant for the first time), my brother is a great dad, and my nieces are the coolest little kids. I was doing great until my brother asked me to make lunch for the kids. I went into the kitchen and started making quesadillas.
Then my mom came in and it became clear that I really am the Crazy Aunt, Not to Be Trusted. She looked over my shoulder and told me the portions were way too big and I’d have to start over.
Of course. Of course I wouldn’t know how much food to give a kid. Of course I would need to be told how to do it. I had a little internal freakout, then bit my tongue and started again like she wanted me to.
It’s such a tiny little thing but it cut me right down. It was so much harder to deal with than the news of the pregnancy.
*They did it once. The girls had a blast. My brother nearly had an aneurysm.