I might be steering into sensitive/controversial territory here, so consider yourself warned.
People often give us reasons why we need to have more than one kid, chief among them the following:
- we make cute kids, so therefore we cannot stop at just one
- more kids means that over time, they can entertain each other and let us off the hook (of playing with them)
- when we get old, more kids means more children to care for us, thereby reducing each child's burden
- when we both die, having multiple kids means they still have each other
- in the event we lose a child, we still have another one
- only children are sad and lonely, and having siblings fills their inner needs and reduces loneliness
The last line of thinking is the one I was pondering about the other day. While every one of these reasons may simultaneously have some small merit and yet be completely and utterly ridiculous, it occurred to me the absurdity of the reasoning that one should have children for your children's sake. Really? What strikes me as most ludicrous of all is that most children don't really know what they're asking for when they inherit a sibling, and 100% of the time, children don't get to pick who their siblings are. While some children hit the lucky sibling jackpot and end up with sisters/brothers that become lifelong friends, I think that if we were to be completely honest here, most people end up with siblings that are only associates by circumstance. Like, if their siblings were classmates, they might not necessarily be friends. In some cases, they definitely would not.
So while having two or more littles might mean that for those first two decades of life, they have a live-in frenemy or compatriot in mischief, there is certainly no guarantee that in the overall course of life, these children will have a loving, harmonious relationship with each other. In nearly every family I know, from every generation dating back to my grandparents' era, there is a dysfunctional sibling relationship or estrangement. We're talking way more than half, folks, like 75%. And I would say that even among the 25% who don't have strained sibling bonds, there isn't necessarily a close friendship between *all* of the sibs. Unlike friends, siblings are kind of an obligatory relationship; therefore, compatibility is not always guaranteed.
It's safe to say, then, that having children for the sake of your children is fairly weak logic. I don't think that just because Little L is an only child, that she will necessarily feel alone, and I don't know that she would ever want to exchange the attention and standard of living afforded her by being an only child, for siblings. If she, like so many people I know, were to end up with a sibling that she simply did not get along with, then I would posit that her quality of life would be severely reduced (as would my own). If I were to have a second child (no, I don't plan to), believe me when I say that it will not be for the sake of Little L!
Perhaps I am making a blanket statement here. How is your relationship with all of your siblings? How is your parents' relationships with all of theirs? What's your best friend's sibling situation like? Or your grandparents', or extended families'? How about your spouse's, or his family's? Think of all of the people you are close with, and then think of their relationships with their siblings. All good? No dysfunction? No estrangement, or "tough love" scenarios, or strain? Maybe it's just me. That said, I speak as one who was raised in a traditional family with 4 kids, and who is married to a husband who also comes from a traditional family with 2. No divorces among the generations preceding my own, and lots of kids in my parents' and grandparents' origin families, as well as in Hubbs' extended clan. Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, and some agnositics, too, and I would say that the 75% rule applies.
Anyway, the next time someone tells me I need to have another kid so that Little L isn't lonely and doesn't have to carry the sole burden of her aging parents, I might be punching them in the face. Or sending them a link to this blog post, and then punching them in the face. Because, seriously, MYOB comes to mind. As does the ridiculousness of people trying to tell you what you should do with your own body (and family). BAH.