Mom’s Understudy By Laura Peña Age 17

Laura P Picture-2 copy “Do you want to play ninja turtles? This time you can be Rafael.” My three-year-old brother’s insatiable appetite for action struck once again, and here I was, presented with the highest honor in his world. Rafael was his favorite turtle by far. “Sure, where should we play today?” I’d been to the secret lairs of villains and crazy destinations, so I was sure today would be no different. Did I like playing with him? Of course. However, doing the same, or almost the same, every day could be a little tiring. After all, I am mom’s understudy.

I had expected to spend my life as an only child, but when life gifts you with a sibling at the age of fourteen you just have to accept it with open arms. I’d always wanted a brother, and while the timing did throw me off a little, I was expecting him more at around age five, the feeling was indescribable when we were finally able to bring this little swaddled thing home. He had dimples and just the right amount of fluff to him; he was perfect. However, perfection can be hard to maintain, and I learned that soon when I was changing numerous diapers or constantly cleaning his bottles. But what can I say? I traded in my Pomeranian for my brother so he had to be worthwhile right?

As the years pass and my little brother continues to grow and play and get into messes, I realize that he is the biggest blessing in my life so far. It definitely wasn’t easy cleaning squash stains out of a great blouse, coming home to realize that one of my favorite Wii games had been broken, or spending countless hours babysitting so my parents could have some time to go out and relax. It really was no cakewalk. Despite all that, it is still worth having him around because for the first time I feel so proud to have someone look up to me. Sure, my parents love me immensely and unconditionally, but it’s not the same. I feel like I have my baby brother’s life in my hands. That was when it hit me; I might actually be mom’s understudy.

If you ask me to define what mom’s understudy is, I’d say the closest definition is almost being a second mother. I’m there when mom needs me to step in and help clean or when she needs extra help looking after the energetic rugrat that is my brother. However, something I can tell you with certainty is this: there’s nothing that’s made me happier than to be a vital part of my brother’s life. Well don’t all sisters play a vital part? Yes, but this is different.  Sometimes, I’m actually allowed to even be in charge! Ego-trip aside, I have responsibilities that include helping him eat his dinner, and not let him use his veggies as pretend spacecraft, bathing him, cleaning up after him, and being the perfect playmate. Well if you’re reading this you’re probably thinking, “That’s nice and all but that girl doesn’t sound like she has a life.” Initially, I thought the same thing. I had to spend a lot of weekends at home, which meant no trips to New York City with my friends, no parties, no hanging out, no concerts, no nothing. The same thing applied to certain weeknights. I hated knowing that while I was here at home there were other teens doing what I wanted to do. However, when I finally got the chance to occasionally go out, I realized that (surprisingly) I wasn’t actually missing much!

Sure, I had, and still have, to make a lot of sacrifices, but my definition of “a life” has changed. To me having “a life” now means spending time with someone who both looks up to and needs me. I don’t live the life of a typical teen, but that’s ok. I don’t need to be at all of the social gatherings or watch the latest movies in theaters to be happy. At first, realizing I was different stung, but then I realized that there are things bigger than just me, both physically and mentally. One of those things includes my family which happily expanded three years ago. It hasn’t been easy and it won’t be any easier balancing family, school, and a social life when I go off to college, but that is just another bridge to cross. I’m different because I am like a second mother to my much younger brother, and I wouldn’t trade in this experience for the world.



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