Marrs Attacks: Just say 'uncle'

When my brother announced that he and his wife were expecting their first child, I said I wasn’t ready to be an uncle. Did that stop them? No. Thank God.

At 29, I should be more than capable of watching my siblings reproduce without feeling way old about it. Childhood is certainly over for me, despite the He-Man lunchbox on my windowsill, my frequent temper tantrums and insistence that one can eat sugar cereals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But just because childhood is gone doesn’t mean I’m ready to be grown-up.

With a little bit of terror I saw my sister-in-law get bigger and bigger as the months progressed. It was probably child’s play compared to the sheer fright she and my brother were facing, but it was enough to make me contemplate my mortality. If my brother has a kid, I thought, that means he and I will never be kids again. I am no longer allowed to hold against him anything he did to me in adolescence, because those days are officially over. Their freshness date has expired.

Teenage grudges aside, becoming an uncle is a checkpoint for where I am in life, a time to measure what I’ve done against what I want to accomplish. Who wants to examine that? Maybe a masochist. As if it isn’t hard enough accepting that children are probably not in the cards for me regardless of whether I want them—and I’m certainly not going to have any by accident—that reality is now thrust in my face by the person immediately next to me on our branch of the family tree.     

My silent, pressing question: What is the big deal about babies? Every lady around me squeals when she hears the news, and guys blush a little too. Moreover, society at large seems to have a fascination with the tiny creatures. We put them on greeting cards in sunglasses, dress them up as ladybugs and stick ’em in calendars, spread their pictures around the Internet faster than middle-schoolers with a chain letter. Why? What about these homunculi is so darn alluring? I was curious to know if becoming an uncle would solve this riddle for me.

Nine months came and went and out finally popped the little guy. My brother sent picture after picture across two time zones to share his new toy, and for the first time in my life I actually wanted to look at them. I’d seen a million babies before, and they were always cute, but this one was different. This one I wanted to dress like a pumpkin and snap a photo of for Anne Geddes.

This one made me want to make the most mundane comments in a genuinely excited fashion like, “Look! He has toes!” or “Oh my God, his nose!” as if I were proving some kind of point or had never seen a human being before. I wasn’t even looking for signs of myself in him. I just couldn’t get enough of life in Baby-vision. 

I get it now. I get why people like babies so much, and why families go ga-ga at the news that there’s going to be a new one in the family. The weird part is, I can’t explain it. I don’t know if it’s narcissism that makes me like my brother’s baby but not yours, but I think it’s something more primal than that. It’s something that transcends my He-Man lunchbox and tells me to finally bury the hatchet. I’m even willing to be a little older just to feel it.

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

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