kid and girl at Disneyland

Giving Thanks: Why Having A Surprise Little Brother Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

One Saturday morning in January 2015, my parents came home from their morning excursion, bearing gifts of Tommy’s cheeseburgers for me and my 2 siblings, wearing suspiciously excited smiles. My mom asked us, “Guess where we were this morning?” Us, not really caring, asked “Where?” My mom replied, “The hospital, do you know why?” As a knee-jerk joke that I 100% knew was false, I said “You’re pregnant.” Both my parents giggled and nodded, and I ran out of the dining room to process what they had said, and the fact that I had guessed it without actually guessing it. After all, we had just had a conversation about two weeks prior, where we agreed our family was the perfect size and we (as in, my siblings and I) didn’t want another addition to the family that would lessen the amount of Christmas presents we’d get each year.

Baby and girl dressed in costumes Original photo by Mariah Hernandez 9 months later on September 16th, the new addition, my little brother Mateo Hernandez, emerged from the womb and became the gift that was infinitely better than any Christmas present I had ever and will ever receive. I was actually there in the delivery room when it happened, waiting to hear his cries to turn around (blood freaks me out, I did not want to look) and take pictures. I remember holding him for the first time, looking at his perfect little potato face and thinking about how he was a person who would grow up. That’s literally just a fact of life, but thinking about this person growing up to walk and talk caused tears to pool into my eyes, and still does as I reflect upon it. In that moment, trying to blink away the tears so my parents didn’t ask why I was crying, I had never experienced what it was like to love something to that capacity, being blown away by the thought of their existence, and probably never will feel the same love I feel towards him until I have my own kids. 

Even to this day, I am fascinated at how he can form long sentences and eat with a spoon and play video games, seeing his increasing abilities and morphing into a functional, independent person right before my eyes. Though, now as a 5 year old, he asks why I am staring at him doing random things, and I don’t have the words to explain how much joy and nostalgia I get from seeing the passage of time in his growth. 

While I was already someone who cried and felt intense emotions (I’m a pisces, it’s written in the stars for me to be this way), I became a total softy after Mateo was born. It’s almost embarrassing, sobbing my eyes out when watching movies, TV episodes or even commercials that evoke emotions and include kids, as it makes me think about my little brother. He is just as sensitive in the most beautiful way, like when we both became teary messes after watching Onward. Even as I am writing this, I am constantly getting choked up and having to wipe away tears so I can see what I am writing, for I cannot help but get sentimental speaking about my favorite being. 

Kid in Woody costume Original photo by Mariah Hernandez

His existence made me all the more compassionate, as I care so intensely about this miniature person. As inconvenient as it feels sometimes to have to watch him and entertain him when I have loads of homework or am exhausted, I remember how appreciative I am that he is here, and want to show him that he is loved. I’ve never quite been an expressive person of my positive feelings towards others, and it is something I continue to work on. But for Mateo? I’ll buy him pokemon socks and Starbucks, tell him every single day how cute he is and that I love him, listen to his random ramblings on the distance between mailboxes, give him lots of kisses and hugs and head pats and even bring him his water from a table though he could easily get up to grab it himself. I’d consider myself a fairly selfish person whose first priority is myself and my happiness, but it pains me to be the slightest bit selfish with Mateo, even when I actually need to be grinding on an essay instead of playing with him. 

And my love is returned in ways that I didn’t think children his age were capable of. Though he is showered in love, attention and gifts as the baby of the family, it has never spoiled him rotten. As a tiny two-year old, he’d offer me spoons of soup or drool-covered Hershey’s kisses, showing care for my empty stomach. As he multiplies in size, so does his pure heart. Five-year-old Teo is my hype man, telling me enthusiastically how beautiful I am with my over-the-top makeup looks and each of the seven times I dyed my hair this quarantine. Just this week, he questioned me about where I was going to live when I was older, and suggested I live right by him at “CLA” (what he calls UCLA, his dream school because of yours truly). If I talked about all the caring things he’s done for me or others, you would get tired of scrolling through the countless examples of his sweetness.

Kid and women at park Original photo by Mariah Hernandez

I truly think Mateo came at the right time, and not just because I can appreciate him in ways that I wouldn’t if I was a younger kid instead of a teenager/adult. As I entered high school, my world transformed into one of stress about college and grades, especially as an overly ambitious and anxious person. On days where all I did was sit in my room doing hours of homework, it was a refresher to just go to talk to him or look at him for even just five minutes. He serves as a reminder that life is much more than a GPA and an exceptional career, knowing that no A+ or well-paying job will ever bring me remotely as much joy as he does. My dreams and ideas of happiness aren’t revolved around capitalist ideals; with Mateo, I see that I have him and my family, and even my future family to fill me with a never-ending stream of contentment.

Family at children’s party Original photo by Mariah Hernandez In my darkest moments, Mateo is my anchor. If I lose interest in my wellbeing, I still persevere because I want to be here, and be the best version of myself for him. I know how my actions can influence him, as he is this sponge who wants to be like his big siblings and pick up on our behaviors. With that in mind, I want to show him that as stressed as we may be or no matter how hard life gets, we have the strength to live on knowing that we have each other. That’s why I, as a person only slightly literate in love languages, constantly attempt to show my love so that he knows no matter the circumstances, he always has me. Though, I think he already knows this, as he escapes to my room when my mom gets mad at him for whatever travesuras he’s up to. 

As much as I expanded on it here, in my random tweets and in ramblings in real life, I will never quite have enough words to express how thankful I am to have my Mateo in my life. Nonetheless, I won’t ever stop trying to express those strong feelings to demonstrate just how much his Yaya loves him.