Only the Lonely

I read an interesting blog entry in Motherlode yesterday, written by a mother who has a four year-old daughter and who doesn't intend to have any more children. She wrote about all the pressure she faces from her peers about providing a sibling for her daughter and she wants to know what's wrong with having an only child. Interestingly enough, she's an only child herself.

I'm also an only child, and being so has definitely made me adverse to the idea, not sympathetic to it. I think that even if I hadn't lost both of my parents I still wouldn't want to have just one child. It's not that I don't understand all the reasons that parents could choose (and sometimes not have a choice like my parents, who couldn't have more) to have just one child, it's just that I don't want to do it myself.

Throughout my entire childhood I wished that I had a sibling or two. I think I forgot about the idea for a while during my self-centered adolescence, but after losing my mother, the fierce desire to have someone else in my life who knew her and loved her as I did reared it's head. And now that they're both gone, I can't even imagine how amazing it would be to have someone in my life who shares the same memories (kind of) and experiences that I had growing up.

I read through dozens of the comments in the only child piece yesterday. Some people were incensed and wrote that having only one child was selfish and terrible (poor China), but I was really interested to see how many people wrote in to say that they wished they were an only child, that just because you have a sibling doesn't mean you'll like them or have a relationship with them. And I suppose that's true as well.

But then I think about Greg and his siblings. There are six of them, altogether. They're all about 2 years apart and Greg is right in the middle. For the most part, in comparison to other sibling sets I've met, they're all quite close. And while they may not always get along or approve of each other all the time, they really do love each other and share an amazing bond. 

And I know that even if Greg and I only end up having this one child, it will have so many wonderful cousins and aunts and uncles in its life that it will never lack for family or shared memories. But all the same, I definitely want to have more than one child. When Greg and I are gone, and even long before that, I'd like for my children to be able to have each other, to be able to sift through a shared experience of this strange life, and of the life that Greg and I, in particular, introduced them to.

7 comments

7 Comments

  • Posted January 30, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    if time and health and money and patience align…i would have at least 2 more. i really would. for some of these reasons and more. i can’t imagine my life w/out my sisters…we drive one another nuts, but it is just like you said in re: to mutual memories–to be fair we often remember things differently…but we all at least, for instance, remember the “old” mommy.
    xo

  • Wendy
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    My sister is without a doubt one of my best friends, we share memories no one else does and also understand each other in a way only siblings can. I can’t imagine my life without her. That being said I didn’t initially want any kids, then was satisfied with one and eventually gave birth to twins bringing us up to a grand total of 4 kids. Everyone has to make their own decision and no matter what you decide it will be right for your family. I think people forget sometimes that though they have their own opinions, each individual family makes their own choices. We were criticized for wanting to have another child after our son was born with a complicated heart defect, if we had listened to the naysayers we would not have our beautiful, healthy twin girls. Best of luck whatever you and Greg decide!

  • Kate
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    As an only child myself, and with a partner who is one of six, I really wanted to have more than one child. I now have two, my daughter is nearly 16 and my son is nine. I know that we have been very lucky to have one of each sex and the age difference between them has generally worked out well. They both have their sense of self and my daughter was old enough to understand about her new baby brother and tell us how she felt. I was a very happy only child and in contast my partner cannot imagine life growing up without his five siblings. Good luck to you and Greg, all the way from Oz.

  • Posted January 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I guess there are pros and cons to both; but I wouldn’t trade my two brothers in for the world. They are the two people in the world that can make me more angry than I ever thought was possible, they know exactly how to really irritate me. But I think the reason that they can get to me so thoroughly is because I love them so much! They’re also the people with whom I’m most comfortable, and no one can make me laugh like they do.
    I don’t feel like I can weigh in on the only-child-versus-siblings argument, but I can say that my relationship with my siblings has definitely shaped who I am — and in a big way.

  • Carroll
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    Commenting from afar tonight (warm and sunny Maui, yes indeed!) and on a flaky connection having not read the prior entries, but add me to the “only” column myself, and for sure that’s the reason we had two kids ourselves. From the perspective now of those kids being long-grown, I really wish we’d had more. We felt (still do) strongly about not wanting to add to the over-population of the world, which is why we stopped at two. But reading about families like Greg’s, and knowing how hard it is to get even two together at the same time for holidays, I very selfishly wish we had a bunch more to raise the odds of getting at *least* two to return to the nest at one time. I’ll have more to say on this when I can catch up in the light of day. Oh, and yes — I always longed for a sibling when I was growing up. Preferably a strong, handsome and popular older brother whose friends could then have been potential boyfriends for me!

  • Posted February 2, 2009 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    “I definately want to have more than one child”. I think you mean ‘I definately like the idea of having more than one child’. There is the idea, then there is the reality. Both you and Greg tend to fantasize about what it will be like. Thats OK, thats great. Sort of practising parenting. Just dont try to make the reality into the fantasy, as the two will diverge pretty quickly.
    Siblings are a pain in the arse. Sometimes. My brother and I didn’t get on or do things together ater we were about 10. We didn’t communicate at all for a couple of decades. Not once. In the meantime someone invented the internet. Now we communicate very regularly and have rediscovered we have a lot common.
    Like me and my brother, my two daughters were born 18 months apart. Likely to be a maximum for sibling rivalry I later found out. As little kids, they played great. Round puberty and later, they fought like cats with a great deal of screaming and shouting and door slamming. I found out the hard way, that trying to intervene with patience and a bit of rational calm did no go whatsoever. It just prolonged the spats as there was nothing rational about them in the first place. So I just tried to defend the furniture until it was over.
    So go on, start a tribe. No predicting what what the relationships will be like and there will be stormy moments, but in the end in dawns on most siblings that there are 7 billion people out there, and only two of them are my brother and sister, and thats all I’ll ever have.
    Anyway, having one baby so thouroughly stuffs up the lifestyle you had before, a few more doesn’t seem to make much difference.
    Just thought I’d try and balance out the demographic with a bloke’s point of view.

  • kavita
    Posted February 6, 2009 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Claire, your last para sums up my views too.
    Both my parents come from small families and I have only two cousins on my Mom’s side, and both are the only child of their parents. In thier mid-20s, they prefer coming over to our house (overnight journey) than staying home on festivals and special occassions. India has a couple of festivals to celebrate the brother-sister relationship, and their hearts bleed on those days.
    On the other hand, we three sisters are a happy bunch. Paul, you are totally right about siblings having terrible fights. We’ve been there, done that, but we put that all behind us after a while, so things are alright in the end.

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