I loved being an only child. Growing up, my letters to Santa might ask for a Cabbage Patch doll or a bike, but my secret plea was always, please do NOT bring me a baby brother or sister.
A natural-born introvert, I never had trouble playing by myself, but I also had a full-time companion in the form of an attentive super-mom who stopped working after I was born. I tended to gravitate toward friends who had loud, raucous homes, and I definitely envied the kids who had built-in sibling playmates on vacation, but I wanted no part of that setup in my home life.
But I did want it for my kids.
From the moment my husband and I started trying to have a family, I envisioned multiple children. It seemed natural to my husband, who has an older brother, so we were on the same page. We didn’t have a totally smooth fertility journey, but we were incredibly blessed to be able to ultimately choose and succeed in having three kids.
I think my husband appreciates the complexities of sibling dynamics but takes them as a given: Yup, this is what it’s like to have a brother or sister. I, on the other hand, am constantly in awe of and so grateful for their bond with one another: So, this is what it’s like to have a brother or sister!
That’s not to say they don’t fight. There is hardly a day that goes by when one of the three doesn’t make at least one sibling cry. They frequently resort to dirty tactics such as pinching, hair pulling, and even—when they’re really backed into a corner—biting. It’s not pretty, and often it’s not even darkly humorous, but I try to assure myself it’s part of learning how to express and manage feelings and navigate their place in the outside world. Better to bite your sister than your teacher, right?
Then there are other times when I’ll be in another room, and I’ll hear them playing and laughing together and communicating in their own special coded language. Or they’ll be watching TV and by the end of the show, there is almost no space left between their bodies on the couch.
It’s those moments when I’m so overwhelmed by emotion that I almost forget to breathe, that having a sibling seems like the best gift in the world.
I have no regrets about being an only child, and I see friends who have one child and whose families of two or three are no less complete than my own of five. But I have always been aware that there is a kind of love I will never experience myself: the love between siblings. Even a friend who feels like a sister is not the same as two people who grow up in the same household and share the good, bad, and mundane experiences that make up family life. That is a unique, unspoken, lifelong connection.
Often when things get especially heated at our house, I find myself demanding that my kids take some time apart. They seem almost physically incapable of doing so. At the moment, it can be maddening. In the bigger picture, it’s my greatest joy.