I just finished reading My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I approached it with a little hesitation. Mostly because I've always thought of myself as my brother's keeper, but more in the sense that I asked for him, I can't give him back and (don't tell him but) I would never want to.
I'm not going to go into detail about the book, except that it's about how a family deals with having a daughter with a serious medical condition. Cc is also reading it; she mentioned that it could hit close to home for me and that I didn't have to finish if it made me uncomfortable. And I did identify with some of the book--the helplessness, the confusion, the loving somebody so much that you'd risk anything for them. But that's about it.
As the story unfolded, I started to examine the memories of feelings I had as a kid. Sure it wasn't always a picnic when my brother was in the hospital (and maybe it's because that was so long ago), but I rarely felt overlooked and certainly never felt invisible. I credit my mom for that; she grew up having to share my nani's attention with six other kids and three jobs. It made sense why other, more needy kids got more facetime, but that doesn't mean it didn't hurt her. So my parents have always gone out of their way to make sure I had special moments as the center of attention, too, and that I wasn't an afterthought.
I assumed being vigilant about doling out attention was something everyone's parents do, but as I moved through the book I realized that's not the easy feat my mom and dad made it seem. It must have been tricky to keep sight of something as silly as an extravagant birthday party for your six-year-old when your 2-year-old is getting ready to have open-heart surgery. But I remember all those birthday parties, every special outing, and how they only shuttled me off to some Auntie's house a couple times when the going got really tough, not as a protocol.
Little kids are perceptive. They remember things like the refreshing relief that not everything is about the other guy. And they hold onto feeling loved and special well into their adult life. I can only hope to do just as right by the kids I might have someday.