It was just a shabby little basement apartment, far too damp for a newborn baby, but it was all they could afford. It was a cold, damp, rainy, west-coast November afternoon when Carol’s Aunt and Uncle brought little baby Liam home from the hospital. The argument which they were having when they got out of the car seemed like it had been underway for quite some time. Carol was waiting in the driveway to meet her new baby cousin, with her four-year-old cousin Michael and her parents. They had spent the morning getting the shabby little apartment ready for the new baby’s arrival and trying to convince six-year-old Michael that a new baby brother was a wonderful thing. Carol had no idea what her Aunt and Uncle were arguing about. She heard her mother mutter something about saving their battle for another time; after all they were about introduce Michael to his new baby brother Liam.
Carol was just thirteen when Liam made his appearance in the world. In those days, thirteen was considered a prime age for babysitting. So, so every day after school, Carol would head over to Aunt Val’s and Uncle Dave’s to help out. It was Carol’s job to take Liam for a walk each afternoon so that her Aunt Val could get supper on the table. Carol would pack Liam up in his pram, regardless of the weather and head for the park. Michael would tag along behind them.
In the weeks which followed Liam’s arrival, Michael changed quite a bit. He became unusually whiney. He didn’t seem to enjoy much in his little life. He whined about everything. He whined about going to the park and he whined about having to leave the park. He whined whenever he was told to be quiet because his baby brother was sleeping, and he whined when he was asked to help with anything which had anything to do with his baby brother. Carol’s Mom said that all this was very normal; children don’t much like it when a new baby takes the attention of their parents. Carol disagreed with her mother about the cause of Michael’s behaviour, but she kept her thoughts to herself. She was convinced that Michael’s whining had more to do with his parents’ whining. Ever since they had brought Liam home from the hospital, Val and Dave had taken up whining themselves. They whined about dirty diapers, about being tired all the time, about the messy apartment, about the crying baby, about how small and shabby the apartment was and about how much whining Michael was doing. When they weren’t whining, Val and Dave were actually fighting. They fought about everything. They fought about whether or not the baby should sleep in their bedroom. They fought about whether or not Michael should be sent to his room as punishment for waking up his baby brother. They fought about dinner being late; about whether or not Uncle Dave should have to change dirty diapers because he was too tired from working all day. And they were always arguing about money. So, as Christmas approached, they argued about how they were going to pay for Christmas. The more they argued, the whiner Michael became.