Since before I was even pregnant with Ritter, I was adamant that we would have more than one child. As an only child myself (until I gained a step sister at the age of 15), I grew up lonely and starving for attention. I moved alot and never had regular neighborhood friends. I was not involved in extracurriculars. I was a sad kid. I longed for a sibling. I endured my fair share of family dysfunction that contributed to these things …but I always felt life would have been better with a brother or sister.
As I got older I became friends with people who were SUPER close to their own siblings and I envied their relationships. Granted, I knew plenty of people that had siblings that they hated, but when you see those sibling relationships that are super close it’s a beautiful thing (here’s lookin’ at you Garland and Micah Culbreath and Allie and Jen Turnage :)).
When I became a therapist and began doing alot of family work I became so interested in family dynamics and sibling relationships. Adler was on to something. His birth order stuff has always fascinated me and it’s usually spot on. I also found myself paying particular attention to how parenting style affects sibling relationships and, duh, the kids that had the stronger parents had the best/strongest sibling relationships. So…I decided we WOULD have second child, and we would be very strong parents, and Ritter and his sibling would be very close, and they would NOT hate each other!!!
There was also the whole ‘birth experience’ aspect. I had a grueling labor and delivery with R. I did it naturally. I read every book about natural labor that I could get my hands on. I was SO excited about the surge of endorphins that you get after giving birth naturally. You can read Ritter’s birth story for all the gory details on that whole thing and why things didn’t exactly go as I had planned. All that to say…one of the biggest reasons I want to have another child is because I want another birth experience. Being pregnant and having Ritter was the most special and perfect experience of my life. I loved and savored every second of it – even when it was hard and painful. But it definitely didn’t end as I expected. I really REALLY want another chance at another natural delivery. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking back there is SO much I would do differently and I so want the chance. But…is that really a reason to have another child?
As Ritter grows he just gets more and more fun. I have so many friends who had kids around the same time I had R and they are already pregnant with their next child… I keep thinking “how in the WORLD do these people want another baby this soon!?!?” There’s nothing at all wrong with that and it’s wonderful that they have the financial means to do it (because we certainly don’t), but I’m just enjoying Ritter SO much I couldn’t imagine a newborn taking away from that. Also, now that he’s on a much more flexible schedule and he’s older, we can go and do so much more with him and it’s SO much fun. I couldn’t imagine going back to bottles and multiple naps a day right now. Even if we had the financial means (and big enough house) to have another baby right now, I believe we’d still wait until R is around 4. This stage is just too much fun…I can’t imagine not being able to milk every last little drop of it.
All that to say…I’ve recently begun to doubt whether or not we eventually ever WILL have another. I literally lay in bed at night debating this. I know what everyone says about how your heart just expands and you are able to love another just as much as the first. I know that they will be great friends. I know that they will have each other to play with. I know all of the wonderful benefits of having a sibling. But we often overlook the many advantages to being an only child. I found this article today and it does a great job of explaining what many of those things are. Notably first borns and only children DO tend to be most successful academically and only children have higher IQ’s than children with one or more siblings. I’ve always known this but only children are also often very comfortable around adults and tend to have stronger social skills. That was definitely the case for me. Granted, I had difficulty with peers in my early years (shocker I know) because we moved so much and I tended to ONLY be around adults other than in school. But that has more to do with the fact that my mom treated me more like an equal or friend and I didn’t have consistent limits, consequences, and boundaries. But as I got older I was definitely more mature and stronger socially than many of my peers. To this day I am comfortable in just about any situation you put me in and I can make conversation with anyone. Having a mom who is super social and in public relations didn’t hurt either.
I also think about the downsides of having siblings…the ARE some. Even siblings with very good relationships and great parents still experience some level of sibling rivalry…and it’s a very delicate thing for parents to navigate. There is a very fine line between healthy competition and a very UNhealthy level of resentment and anger. Also, with the addition of another child comes division of resources. We can give a whole lot more to one than we can to two. Not to say that R will be spoiled. Oh how I plan to make that kid work, and do chores, and NEVER EVER will I give him a brand new car at 16 (what are these parents thinking????). I will work SO hard to make sure he has a good work ethic, and compassion for others, and appreciates what he has, and never feels entitled. Sure he will probably naturally develop some selfish tendencies as have Eric and I, but that’s sorta unavoidable when you really never have to share.
I also think about the kids that I see that have large age gaps between them and their next sibling. I see this alot. We can’t pay for 2 in daycare and I doubt my mother-in-law has it in her to stay home with another one until it’s a year old like she did with R…so we would HAVE to wait until R was in school to have another. That would make a pretty significant age gap between Ritter and baby number 2. What I often see in those situations are younger siblings who are exposed to things by older siblings that they really shouldn’t be. I think about the sweet little 10 year old whose older sibling is an angry/raging/rebellious teenager and the teen behavior straight up scares the bejesus out of her. Here younger siblings are often exposed to a great deal of fighting and chaos in the home as parents try to get control over their crazy teenager. I think about the preteen being exposed to the over sexualized, promiscuous behavior of her older sister. I think about the little brother who idolizes his older brother…but older brother only sees him as annoying and stupid and childish – and makes sure he knows it. All of these situations make me sad. And in so many of these cases the OLDER sibling has HUGE resentment towards the younger because they were an only child for so long. I think having them closer together avoids that – obviously it’s hard for a kid to remember what being the only one was like if their sibling came along when they were 2 or 3. But if a kid is the ONLY one for 5 or more years, that can be a significant adjustment. I also think about the people I know who have GREAT sibling relationships – in those cases they are very close in age. And, again, I think alot of these issues have more to do with the parenting than anything but it’s still something to think about.
…do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself or y’all? I can’t decide.
Anyhoo…this blog isn’t so much an announcement of any sort (although I’m sure it felt like that in the beginning) but more or less just me rambling about how I’m finally getting OK with the idea that we might not have another kid. The prospect of getting my uterus removed and not having PMS sounds real nice too – but that’s for another blog. ha. But seriously… my little family is pretty precious and I think we have a great balance. I think we can learn from our parents’ mistakes (and take some notes on what they did right) and make the absolute best of an ‘only child situation’.
Ultimately…I think it’s like all things…what is a fit for one, isn’t a fit for another. For some, having a big family and lots of kids is perfect and it works and it’s everything they ever wanted. I think for my lifestyle though, having one could be alot better. Eric and I go and do alot…I think it’ll be easier, and more fun, to go and do with R if he’s the only one. I can see us taking him to shows and music festivals and art galleries and museums. Eek, I can’t wait. And I also see him having SO much more peer interaction than I did. Even if he doesn’t play sports, he will be involved in extracurriculars and he’ll have consistency with other kids in his life – something I never had because I moved so much. It’s so interesting looking at the fact that Eric and I are both only children but we are SOOOOO different. Most notably because our parents couldn’t be more different. But also, Eric had a huge group of first cousins that he was very close to. He also played sports and had children in his neighborhood that he played with – all things I never had. He also had a 2 parent home – I had a single mom.
I could go on and on. These things fascinate me. It’s so interesting how every single detail of our life shapes our personality so significantly. But ultimately I think I’m beginning to see that having an only child isn’t a bad thing…and in many ways can be good. There are so many other factors that contributed to my issues than just being an only child. And whose to say that it would have been any better if I’d had a sibling? It could have actually made a not-so-great situation worse. I also look at the ways that the struggle and loneliness that I felt as an only child shaped me in ways that led to positive things later in life.
I’d love to hear from y’all. I would love to know about YOUR sibling (or lack thereof) story. I’d love to know how your parents’ parenting style shaped your relationship with your siblings, or if an only child, your view of yourself.
Here are the cool articles I found…..
This one is very concise and very interesting…
This one take a bit more patience to get through as he’s giving alot of research and statistical info but is no less interesting…. if you can stick with it, it’s really good…
Other interesting reads about only kids…