Even though my twin sister Karen lives in a different country from my husband, daughter and I, and it has been the only thing my daughter has ever known, my twin and daughter are extremely close.
Most of the year is spent face-timing each other but a few times a year it is magical because they get to see each other in the flesh.
From the moment my sister collects us from the airport in Toronto or we collect her in Dublin, the two are stuck together like glue. My daughter is so happy I actually can’t find a word to describe her joy. In fact it is a type of happiness so strong I should probably invent a word to describe it.
This bond began from day one. My sister had her plane ticket booked for the week of my daughter’s due date eight years ago, but Joan decided to arrive three weeks early.
But when the two did meet for the very first time it was to set in motion the special bond that still stands today.
Karen stayed with us for a month after Joan arrived, holding all five-and-a-half pounds of her for hours at a time and significantly bringing calm to her and her new mom at a time when we needed it most.
Throughout the years Joan has considered my sister the fourth member of our immediate family.
When we bought new stockings for Christmas it was instinctive to her mind we buy four. When we plan our trip in Canada it is intuitive that everything is booked for four.
And so much of the time in between visits is spent talking about the next time she will see her Aunt Karen.
Likewise when we meet close friends and colleagues of my sister’s, they know all about Joan: Her favourite animal; that she started piano lessons this year and the name of her best friend — all reflecting how much Karen talks about Joan.
Whenever we have time together Karen takes top billing and my husband and I almost fade into the background.
It is lovely to watch: Karen makes her laugh the hardest; explains things the best; reads the best books, and creates this sense of fun and magic that we just can’t always muster as her parents.
I am so lucky that two of the most important people in my life, always just pick up where they left off — like it was yesterday that they saw each other and not five or six months earlier.
They are invested in each other, Karen shapes Joan’s view of things, influences her behaviour and leaves a very big gap in Joan’s life that takes days to get over when they have to part ways at the airport.
I talk about Karen and Joan and their bond a lot to all my friends.
What is so wonderful is that they all recognise how important their relationship is to one another but also I get to hear how there are loads of other aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who form integral parts of children’s lives.
Reinforcing that these relationships are so crucial to a child’s development, their sense of self and their sense of importance.
The saying is it takes a village to raise a child and in so many ways this is true.
Children listen and respond and make attachments to others that are so strong outside of their parents and these relationships so enrich little people’s lives.
It is truly something to celebrate.
And I for one can’t thank my sister for all she does for Joan despite there being a whole ocean between them.