Two years ago, a teenage girl was sitting on a bench in a hospital and praying for her mother, who was giving birth. The girl was Shujuan Yang.
“It nearly drove me crazy,” says Yang, who sits on a couch and covers her mouth with her palm as she laughs. “I already had three younger sisters. Here came another one. I could do nothing but pray. I wanted both of them to be safe.”
Yang is 19 years old now and a City College freshman. Like a lot of young people her age, she goes to college. But unlike many of her peers, she loves to take care of children, specifically her younger siblings.
On weekday afternoons, Yang rushes directly home from school. Using the spare time that she has after school every day, she takes care of her 2-year-old sister, the baby she had prayed for a few years before.
“To be a big sister is very easy. Well, at least for me,” says Yang. “Haishan, my baby sister, is 17 years younger than me. I love to play with and take care of her.”
Yang says even when Haishan is “naughty,” she makes her laugh. Yang recalled when she was preparing a meal once, Haishan reached her little hands up to the table and grabbed some eggs. They fell and broke.
Yang was angry with Haishan, but Haishan pointed at the broken eggs with her finger.
“It’s not my fault,” she says. “It’s the eggs’ fault.”
Yang says she literally laughed out loud and told her baby sister: “Yes, my, baby. It’s not your fault.”
Yang also helps her mother, Zuhua Luo, care for the rest of the family. Luo says Yang helps her a lot with the house chores.
“Although I have never said this to her face, I really appreciate what she has done for this big family,” Luo says. “I am very proud of her, my beloved daughter.”
Yang sighs. “My mother has given birth to five children. I want to take care of my mother, as well.”
Through it all, Yang has developed special strategies when caring for Haishan, especially when bathing her.
“The kid just will not follow you if you tell her you’re going to bathe her,” says Yang, who says Haishan hates getting water into her eyes and ears. “She loves getting treats and I have to draw her attention. She’s just like a puppy.”
Yang’s friends see the care she gives her sister, and they are impressed.
“Yang is always being kind and nice,” said Stephanie Yuan, one of Yang’s close friends. “I think maybe her family makes her what she is today.”