College Essay: A stand-in parent

Chia Thao
Chia Thao, St. Paul Highland Park High School

My arms screamed in protest, crying mutiny against my mind even as screams, loud and physical, erupted from my youngest sister.

College is the first step in improving my family’s situation.

At 2 years old, her small physical stature belied the strength of her cries. Fat, ugly tears drew salt streaked trails on her cheeks, bright red and burning from the exertion of crying for the past hour. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been out of place—the image of an older sibling calming a younger one—had it not been 3 a.m. on a Tuesday.

Still, despite the late hour and tempting desire to pawn her off to one of my other siblings and sleep, I simply sighed, heaved her sobbing form higher and continued to placate her in whatever way I could.

My mother disappeared at the end of March three years ago. There was no panic, no missing-persons report, no action taken in response to her rather abrupt disappearance from my life. She returned days later, a tiny bundle swaddled with blankets in her arms.

Of course, I knew she had been pregnant beforehand. I had watched as her stomach gradually swelled, ballooning with the newest arrival in my family. I even took over most of her household duties as her pregnancy progressed. However, I never anticipated the changes that my sister’s birth would bring.

With her arrival, my responsibilities doubled, and one of those soon included acting as a stand-in parent and caretaker whenever needed. While I had spent the majority of my life watching over my siblings, they had been only a few years younger than me. The 15-year age gap between me and my newest sister was something completely different. Adapting to my new responsibilities was difficult, whether it was ensuring her safety and distance while I diced vegetables or completing a reading assignment while carrying her.

Such a heavy responsibility had its ups and downs. It led to a great amount of stress and worry for me, and yet, the trust I’ve received from my family in turn is something that I cherish. This experience has changed me in many ways and made me grow in many more. Balancing school and chores with my sister has taught me the determination to succeed despite obstacles. Taking care of her also helped me learn the dedication necessary to continue forward in all things I do. In the process, I’ve gained a motivation and drive to succeed.

Even as I recount the nights I sacrificed to comfort her, I still vividly recall the radiant smile on her face. The moment I closed the door and turned around, loaded down with textbooks and school supplies, I heard it: the loud patter of running feet pounding against the varnished wood floor. The excited shout of my name that disappeared in the air as tiny arms wrapped around my legs.

She looked up at me, beaming with happiness and laughs: an infectious laughter that draws forth my own smile in response. My sister no longer cries as much, but I want to ensure that she doesn’t have to cry for parents that cannot be there. College is the first step in improving my family’s situation. And this experience has already taught me the dedication, determination and drive necessary to succeed not only in college, but also in life.