Growing Pains

A few days after I returned from winter break my freshman year, my mom gave birth to my twin siblings,
By May Habib

A few days after I returned from winter break my freshman year, my mom gave birth to my twin siblings, Adam and Mariam. I was on speaker phone for the hours it took to choose their names. It’s an arduous process in a Lebanese family. Do you name after the grandfather? Which side? Have you slighted any uncles? Luckily, enough people have had children in my family that just about everyone over the age of 20 has a namesake or two (even me!).

I counted the number of days that I’ve spent with the twins since they were born that day in January three years ago. Eighty-three.Eighty-three! Yeah, that’s still way too many smelly diapers and messy spills. But it’s also too many skipped birthdays and a thousand missed firsts. I couldn’t even find a picture of me with the twins for this Endpaper! Overachievers are loathe to admit to faults, but I am ready to admit this: I am a bad big sister.

Throughout college, I have spent every summer abroad, going home to Windsor, Ontario for just a week or two at the beginning or the end of the summer. I’ve used most spring breaks and intersessions for trips with student groups and friends. And I’ve made my choices with the full knowledge that I was sacrificing time with my family for time for myself. Being the eldest of seven siblings means that I’ve been doing a lot of ignoring lately. But the nearly 20-year age gap between Adam and Mariam and me means that my absence over the past three years will have an even more negative impact on my relationships with them.

But I try. I’ve adopted the stories that have been shared by my parents and siblings over the phone as my own memories. Once, at a precious 14 months, Mariam was in the living room when she disappeared from view. After some franctic searching, my sister found her hiding in a corner of the dining room struggling to poop into her diaper. The polite yet constipated baby didn’t want to do the deed in front of the family. Adorable, non? The shitting business makes for good story-telling. When they were getting potty trained last year, Mariam would accompany Adam on his trips to the toilet. “It doesn’t work!” she said.

But I have been there for a handful of the moments that will be retold about the twins for life. It was while I was home two years ago that we began noticing that Adam was referring to Mariam as ‘Adam.’ He thought they had the same name. Though he’s been corrected countless times by now, he still uses the single name for the both of them. I was also there the day that two-year-old Adam said ‘fuck’ to another little boy when, during a playdate, the other child threw a Nerf ball over Adam’s head. The boy’s mother, in earshot, was not pleased. Their favorite teddy bears, which the clever children have both named ‘Cow,’ were gifts from me that I picked up at the Coop the day they were born and brought home during a break. Their favorite computer game—a Sesame Street production starring Elmo—was introduced to them by me last summer.

And I’ve spent enough time with them to see how their personalities have developed. Adam is easily distracted, while Mariam could flip through the pages of a book forever. Mariam speaks in short, complete sentences while Adam mimics adult conversation—complete with wild gesticulations and even pregnant pauses—all while failing to utter a single intelligible word. (The men in my family...what can I say.)

But 83 days is not even enough time to get to know a TF—it is hardly enough time to make lasting bonds with siblings. My impact on Adam and Mariam’s lives has been minimal, and the prospects don’t look good. Because Windsor, Ontario is kinda like the Canadian equivalent of bum-fuck-Texas, I will not be moving back home after I graduate in June. Am I going to be the sister they never knew?

I don’t know. But I do know that I will be 42 by the time Adam and Mariam graduate from college, and these twins have some serious babysitting potential. In the meantime, I need to cultivate that—and our relationship. I’m starting this Thanksgiving, by getting them to hold still for a photo.

—May Habib, the Crimson’s associate managing editor, is a senior in Pforzheimer House. Not only do no pictures exist of May with her twin siblings—no pictures of May exist at all.