It was a beautiful day in May of 1954. I was walking home from school when a car stopped and the driver asked if I wanted a ride. I said yes. The driver was my father and the passenger my mother. But what riveted my attention was the infant in the arms of my mother. (This was long before the days of seat belts and infant car seats).
It was my little sister. I have never forgotten my first look at her. I was anxious to get home so I could hold her. I fell in love with her instantly. I was eight years old at the time and this baby was the fourth child to come into our family. But she was the first one I remember from infancy.
Today many families are choosing to have only one child because of economics, time and energy and the later age of mother’s first pregnancy. But some parents are wondering. “Should I have a second child?” They can find books and articles on having an only child but find it difficult to find something addressing the question of having more than one. What are the possible implications of deciding to have two, three or even more children?
You can organize group activities without having to extend an invitation to other children. An only child needs to invite a friend in order to participate in any activity calling for more than one child; kids with siblings have companionship right there in the same house.
In our home amateur theatrical productions were the order of the day. We still giggle about our Christmas concerts. As the oldest, I was, of course the producer, director and usually got the starring role (after a rigorous audition during which I, in my role as director, made the only possible choice: Kathy as the star). There were times when we expanded our cast to include our friends, but without having practiced the art of home-based theatre it wouldn’t have happened.
Length of Relationship
Our siblings know us through our successes and failures, through puberty and menopause, through our careers, retirement and grandparenthood. The longest relationships we will have are those with our siblings. And as we age, the depth and importance of our sibling relationships increase. A study has shown that in middle age 68% of adults say they feel extremely close to their siblings and by the time they are seniors the percentage increases to 83%.
Growing up with siblings can teach your child to share, to compromise, to respect differences and to problem-solve.
The Issue of Fighting
Okay, this sharing stuff doesn’t always come easy. So, what about the bickering, quarrelling and squabbling? The supreme irony is that sibling conflict often takes place with such abandon simply because of family security. Siblings can interact with little inhibition. It’s tough on parents but it gives kids a chance to test the limits of anger, jealousy, love and humour with safe peers — their brothers and sisters. Without the chance to test their relationships it is often more difficult for kids to learn about the give-and-take involved in friendships.
What about Time?
Children thrive on one-on-one time with their parents but for most parents, time is at a premium and splitting it among two or three kids can seem overwhelming. What we have forgotten is that kids aren’t looking for super-special time. They just like to be with us, so if we get one child to help fold the laundry and the other to work with us as we prepare dinner the problem is solved.
And, kids with siblings can not only rely on us for family companionship and confidant, they can also lean on each other.
How many is Best?
How many do you want? What feels right for you? One child is the perfect number for many families and if that works for you, it’s exactly right. If you want two or three or more, it’s your choice. I have two children and my husband and I wanted two children. So we’re lucky, it worked perfectly for us.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert and Canada’s leading speaker on parenting issues. She has helped thousands of parents to regain some order in their lives. For more information, call Kathy at 604-258-9074 or check out www.parentingtoday.ca.