In March, my son turned four years old. I noticed his personality growing. The confidence in his laughter. The determination in his scribbles of a picture. The wrinkles in his frown when he was throwing tantrums.
But he still hasn’t asked us about the girl in the photograph. The one on the kitchen fridge with the chipped banana magnet.
I was supposed to know what it was like to raise a child. Considering our son’s older sister, right? The girl in the photograph?
I was a parent to a four-year-old son and a daughter who didn’t make it past her third birthday. I was a parent to a child who I could touch, look and speak to physically. A child who could respond back to me. I was also a parent to a child who was alive in my heart. I couldn’t love her the way I loved him.
Our son existed. People saw him. They could touch him. They would congratulate or complement our son. But with pity in their eyes and hushed voices, the compliments went past our daughter. I hid my love for her in my heart. Silenced and private.
Since our son was born, I always compared my two children. Each milestone was correlated to each other. Their first word. Their first steps. Their first cries. But as soon as our son began to surpass our daughter, I was lost. Who was I supposed to look at for guidance? I shied away from internet blogs and friends when too many opinions confused me.
I saw my daughter through my son. They had the same green eyes and blonde hair. Curls that took hours to comb through and never enough hair gel to smooth down. But he also had his differences. Unlike her blank canvas of a face, a scatter of freckles blotted his nose. His dimples. He height. He was lankier. Louder. Realer.
It was becoming bittersweet. The fact that my son was reaching further than what my daughter ever would. It was as if I could never properly get to know her. I wanted to ask what her favourite colour would’ve been. What she would’ve wanted for dinner on a Friday night. What high school club she would be interested in. What she would pursue in the future.
When our cat passed, my children were content with their limited understanding of death.
They knew of the home above the clouds where everyone with wings and halos stayed waiting. I didn’t know how to tell my son that his sister was no longer with us. It was a question some days I dreaded to hear, and other days I yearned to talk about.
It was easy to listen to what everyone had to say about parenting. But there was no such manual for a parent with a deceased child. I was learning – no, coping – every day. He never asked who or where she was. It was as if he silently understood that it was a discussion that was saved for later.
Until then, I remain waiting. Waiting to introduce my daughter to my son – even though they will never meet.