My sister visited last week. It’s the first time I’m seeing my niece after holding her as a newborn last year and the first time my sister is meeting Benji ever. The past five days have been interesting.

  1. My niece is my sister’s tail. She follows her everywhere saying “Mamma”. If my sister goes into the loo she stands outside and bangs on the door. She needs to keep checking that both her parents are around and gets agitated if they’re not – but she’s more clingy about my sister. It’s strange because back home she’s in daycare and is fine without them. My mum says my sister was exactly like this so it’s history repeating itself.
  2. She is obsessed with Elmo. I have Sesame Street songs running in a loop inside my head now.
  3. Unfortunately, she didn’t take to Benji at all. She yelled if he came near her. My sis made a great effort to get her to interact with him but she wasn’t keen at all. Again, this is strange for a daycare kid but my sister said that in general, she’s not very social, especially with other kids. Benji, on the other hand, was her one-man fan club. He kept shouting out to her. He wanted in on whatever she was doing. If she was eating, he’d eat. I told him I sadly couldn’t manufacture an elder sister for him, but hopefully he’ll be as enthusiastic about the baby when it comes.
  4. The niece is prone to meltdowns, which were exacerbated by having done three places in two weeks and the proximity of Benji. It gave me a taste of what it’s going to be like having two babies in the house at the same time. One starts crying, then the other starts crying because the first one is crying, and so on in a loop.
  5. I am also dreading Benji getting into the ‘carry me’ phase. How do parents do it – carry a heavy child and walk long distances? Muscles just develop, I guess. I experienced that when Benji was a newborn but a toddler is so much heavier. Benji has sort of started walking – only in the playroom where the surface of the ground seems to suit him – so I’m hoping his fascination with walking will buy us some time.
  6. Children have personalities that are independent of anything their parents might try to do to influence them. Now that I can see parenting firsthand as those close to me have babies, I roll my eyes more and more when people give other people unsolicited advice on parenting. Most of the time these people stress – often smugly – what worked for them. The fact is that these tried-and-tested methods will not work for every child because every child is different. If it worked for you, you’re lucky that the formula fit. That’s all. It doesn’t make you a great parent or someone else a bad parent. Yes, there are parents that don’t correct their kids at all. But all around me I see parents who are trying their best and are at a loss about how to cope with the individual needs and personality quirks of their child. I am more sympathetic to parents now.
  7. The difference in parenting styles between my sis and me is a surprise. I would have expected me to be the strict one, the one trying to teach my child new things. Instead, I am the laissez-faire parent and my sister, the softie, lays down the law quite often. This might also be because I have help and she doesn’t. I can allow the children to make a mess because I do not have to do everything myself like she does. It’s quite possible that my “let them be” will come back to bite me in the ass also. Time will tell.
  8. I realised that my sis and I have different perceptions of us growing up. She made a reference to tensions I didn’t have any idea existed. We didn’t continue that conversation but I’m curious.