Babysitting an eight-year-old

Tonight, as my mum and dad danced the samba with a plastic parrot and some beautiful women in bedazzled outfits fit for Carnaval, I sat in my bed listening to all the hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares of my eight year old brother. I have to say, I don’t think I have ever been more disappointed with the world we live in than I am after realising the depth of worry in such a small mind.

Having tried to convince said brother that it was bed-time, and with the prospect of travelling to see my boyfriend tomorrow increasing my exhaustion, he opened up enough to tell me he didn’t feel safe. My heart sank; my baby brother had reached the stage in his life I remembered all too well. He is stood upon the brink of what I believe to be anxiety, and I really hope he keeps his head above the water.

Listening diligently, all fears came flowing out, from house fires to robbery to someone kidnapping either of us. The truth is, my baby brother’s fears are the same as mine, and being over twice his age, this thought scares me. Just last night my own mind had forced me to shut out the stars as the fear of my open curtains triggered over-exaggerated scenarios all ending in death. Somehow, we have created a society built on fear, stress and anxiety. Fear is power and power is dangerous. What kind of a world is it where a boy doesn’t feel safe on a military camp with his older sister for a few hours?

But having admitted his fears to me, he also shocked me into not giving up all hope on the world we live in. My baby brother asked me what I wanted to be if I could be anything. Immediately, my sensible mind jumped straight to the answer I had rehearsed for all respective adults. I want to be an editor, or perhaps work with disabled children. But before I had time to answer, he gave me the answer of what he would be. He told me he would be an all-powerful genie, so as to give all the sad people in the world three wishes.

Okay, I thought. Well that trumps my answer any day. And then it occurred to me; to an eight year old, this question is not used to work out what choices I should make in the next few years of my life. He asked me this question because it was fun; this was his way of bringing me away from everything I feared, and finding a way to handle it. He wasn’t asking me what I wanted to be when I was older, he wanted to know how I would solve all the issues with one simple wish.

Well I contemplated for a moment, and I finally came up with an answer to satiate his need for childhood fantasy. I told him I would be a special kind of pixie. I wouldn’t age, and I would live until I was ready to die. I would live in the trees and ride the birds to get around, drinking tree sap like wine and dining on acorns like steak. Being small, no one could hurt me, and I would never have to worry about being stolen from. To me, this seemed ideal.

In one swift move, my brother had managed to do what, for many many years, I had deemed impossible. This tiny, innocent, anxiety fuelled child abolished all my worried and fears with something I had too often dismissed as childish fantasy. I guess this was a lesson. My baby brother has restored me faith, not all the world is bad.



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