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Two Can Still Be a Lonely Number

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.


Helen Kam said…
I would say that I know more siblings that are close friends than not. Of my family, my mom still keeps good relationship with her siblings (all 5, closer with her brothers than her one sister though). My dad's side, I would say one aunt is a bit estranged but the others are good. Sharon and I are tight, and my brother and I had some strain during high school years but we are good now (I was just a neglectful older sister during my high school years, and when it was his turn for high school, I turned into the overly protective sister XD but we would both say we have fond childhood memories together). My closest friends with siblings all have close relationships with their siblings. I see very tight sibling relationships from families at church too.

So I worry less about E's relationship with her sibling and a little more on how it will change our relationship with her or her sibling(s). My friends were good with their little brother or sister, but they've shared that their parents sometimes wished that they stuck with just their first born because the second child was much more high maintenance XD My other fear is if the second child needs special attention, it would take our time away from E much more than we would have anticipated, as I have seen this unfold in some families as well. All in all, we are leaving it in God's hands (I don't think I will use fertility methods or adoption [unless we felt called to] if we don't get pregnant ever again). He knows what will become of our family unit and we will hand over those fears to Him if he does bless us with more.
Mrs. Loquacious said…
I think it is good to leave it in God's hands. My contention is with those who try to tell me that my decision is wrong for the sake of Little L. I agree too, that if a second child turns out to have special needs or is just more needy in general, that also affects family dynamics. The more kids, the less a parent is able to devote wholly to one child, even if all kids are equally unneedy! 😜

I can't say that all of the sib relationships I know of are good, and you may be among the happy few. My own life bears testament to this (not all sib relationships are well and good at the moment), as do so many relationships around me. It is no guarantee that having several kids means that they will all get along.
Krista said…
I come from a family of 9 children. While I am not especially close to them all, I love them all and love to see them when I can. I'm glad my parents gave me the gift of siblings and I want to bestow this on my own children. There is something special about having the same childhood life experiences as someone else.

I don't think you should have children just for your daughters benefit. It is a decision that is for you and your husband and no one else. That being said, I've always felt it might be a tad lonely being an only child...

Also, where I come from, there are many, many extra-large families, and I would say most have great relationships with their siblings. I think your point of view is colored by where and how you were raised, as is mine.

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