This started off as a writing prompt.
When you were 4, you accidentally made a deal with the Devil to have your life play out as you want. There was a catch, you may never change your mind. You’re now 30, and your life is exactly what the 4-year-old you dreamed.
His piercing red eyes shined, a small smile forming at the corners of his mouth. He looked far more ‘normal’ than the pictures in the Illustrated Bible Nana had been reading to me nightly for the past month. Except for those awful red eyes. I did my best to look away.
“So have you decided what you want?” He licked his lips as his smile got wider. “Remember. No take backs. This is permanent.”
“Yesss…” The words slipped out involuntarily with excitement. “I want to be the baby of the family forever.”
Any ramifications of my childish desire were very much above the reasoning of my four-year-old mind. This would make me happy again. Things would go back to normal. That’s all I knew.
He started laughing, cackling really, and with a quick flick of his wrist, he uttered, “As you wish…” and disappeared in a cloud of red smoke.
I shuddered, but as with any imaginative young preschooler I barely registered it as anything more than a dream and promptly went back to playing with my favorit Legos.
You see, my baby brother was born right after my third birthday. Everyone cooed and jumped with joy at holding him and feeding him, but all I knew was that the moment they brought him, everything seemed to change. He cried all the time, pooped himself to no end, and he kept sucking away all the attention that had been devoted to me since forever. He stole my family.
Especially my Nana. Previously completely enamored in my mere existence, she no longer paid as much attention to me like before. She didn’t cut my lunch bread up and arrange it into little animals anymore. She was too busy changing diapers and cleaning up the stupid messes that George made every time he so much as breathed.
I tried to get their attention. I did everything. Drew pictures, put my clothes in the hamper, helped mommy with her stupid adult play time. I even tried to act like him for a bit. I snuck into the attic one morning and put on my old pullups with Hello Kitty over my pants and climbed into his crib. I lay there for a bit but no one came so I tried to imitate him crying. Finally Nana walked in and saw me, but all she did was yell at me to get out, take off the pullups and stop acting silly with the threat of a spanking if I did it again. What a waste.
It’s like George put a spell on her. Who knew stupid babies could do magic? She didn’t love me or dote on me like before and she was much meaner than before and it was all George’s fault!
If I was the baby again I could go back to being happy and my Nana would go back to normal too.
Lucky for me, the change happened within hours. I had chalked it up to a dream until my mother came into my room and with an exasperated sigh yelled something that I didn’t understand. I was sitting in a puddle and it felt awful. I started to cry but she quickly grabbed me under the armpits and carried me to the bathroom. My hands seemed smaller and so did my feet. I had trouble sitting up in the bathtub, so she had to me lay in a plastic basin.
Afterwards, she dried me off and carried me to George’s room and set me down on his changing table. She kept saying things to me but I couldn’t understand. I felt some panic rising inside me but it was also somewhat exhilarating. Finally I was getting the attention I craved. I didn’t get to enjoy it much longer because as my eyes got droopy, my world turned to black.
When I woke up I was surrounded by black bars, under a Peppa Pig mobile and was wearing the softest blanket. I tried sit up but I didn’t have the muscle strength. I tried to yell out for my mommy but it was muffled by the bulb of the pacifier in my mouth and even after I spit it out, all that came out was a wail. I had lost the ability to talk. I was quite literally the baby of the family.
At first, it felt really confusing but my mind was still intact and I soon learned the limits of my new reality. I grew along with George for a while, although he was always some months ahead of me. I was forever going to be the younger sibling but I grew to enjoy playing with my big brother. He was actually quite doting on me. I grew to love him.
Eventually I’d even learn how to walk again and express myself in simple sentences. This was honestly kind of fun.
Then George turned 3 and I stopped growing. I didn’t get potty trained and despite the expanding vocabulary in my head, I could never seem to express myself any better verbally. I learned to read for goodness sakes, but no one was the wiser and they kept taking away my books in case I damaged them. I still had to sleep in crib long after George got a toddler bed and I still had my tricycle when he got his first bike with training wheels.
It felt cruel once I finally understood how the devil had taken advantage of my innocent four-year-old mind, but being a two-year-old for good wasn’t THAT bad?
Then the unthinkable happened. My mommy came home with another baby. At first I wasn’t too worried. I quietly ate my peas, barely acknowledging the small tiny person in my mommys arms from my highchair as my Nana carried over my sippy cup.
Then my eyes started to droop and my world went dark, and when I woke up I was in my crib again in my Elmo onesie and my kitty pacifier. And it seemed like everything was…no. I couldn’t sit up. Oh no! I started crying from behind the pacifier.
Suddenly a small hand reached through the bars. “It’s okay, Parker. Mommy will come change you soon.” I turned my head and realised it was George. His voice was very calming and my wails quieted to soft sobs.
Except he was different. He seemed bigger. “Guess what Lucy?! I’m going to kindergarten today!”
That’s when it dawned on me. The entrance of my baby sister into the world had shifted the chronology again and apparently I lost some time. If George was going to kindergarten, I was now a 7 year old in the body of a 3 month old.
It’s 6am and today is unofficially my 30th birthday. Nobody in my family knows it though. My brother just turned 27 and drops by from time to time and my two younger sisters are in highschool and baby sit me all the time.
Yep. I had three infant-hoods in a row. George, Gretchen and Illyana.
I carefully climb out of my crib, despite how clumsy my Paw Patrol sleeper makes the attempt… Thankfully, I’ve learned how to disable the baby monitor because my mom has it set to wake her up if there’s too much sound in my room.
I need to celebrate somehow so I quickly scamper to the kitchen, grab the little step stool and get the ice cream out of the fridge. My motor control isn’t the best, but I’ve learned to clean up well after myself. I grab my toddler bowl out of the dishwasher and a spoon and scoop a big chunk out. I put everything away carefully and head to the living room couch with my bowl to put on some TV. To my dismay, Illyana is passed out on the couch. Oh well, carpet it is. I get on Netflix and find the same show I watch every morning.
40 minutes in, I hear footsteps coming from upstairs. I don’t have time to clean up so I jump to plan B. I smear some of the ice cream on my face, scamper to the kitchen and climb up onto the table and climb into my highchair with bowl in hand. I make sure to smear some onto the tray as well, to make it even more convincing.
Moments later my dad appears and I start crying on cue.
“Damnit, Illyana. If you’re going to bring the baby downstairs and serve her ice cream first thing in the morning, you could at the very least change her out of her soiled diaper and put a bib on her. You can’t just leave her and go to sleep. I swear to God, you’re so irresponsible.”