Only the little one was in camp today, so I was hanging out with my son, dragging him to fun adventures like Whole Foods. As I may have mentioned, he's rather bookish, and at the moment he's deep into an apparently very good book. This meant he read in the car, tried to read during lunch with me, read while I shopped...you get the idea. It was quiet.
Being alone with just my eldest is always a very different experience than being with both kids. Mostly pretty quiet. Perhaps introspective. Definitely curious. It got me thinking about what life would be like if we only had our eldest, which once was a distinct possibility.
Neither my husband nor I have any siblings and seem neither particularly warped by nor resentful about the fact. We each appreciate our own time and space and respect the other's. I grew up with a large cast of aunts and uncles (my mother is the second eldest of six), so there was chaos aplenty available, but we always could retire to our own quiet existence across town, which was fine by me.
I never wanted a lot of kids. Before and well into our married years, I always told my husband that I definitely wanted one child with an option on two. As best as I can recall, he signed off on these terms. In time, we got our one, and he was the most splendid baby and toddler--easygoing, happy, friendly, and cuter than I could have imagined we could create. We absolutely thought the sun rose and set around this child.
When it reached should-we-have-another time, I struggled. He would have no aunts, uncles, or cousins and, while I hoped we and his grandparents would be around for a very long time, was it fair to leave him such little family? But, could I possibly love another child as much as this one? It was hard to imagine.
I discussed these feelings with two good friends, each of whom had a first baby the same age as mine and each of whom came from a family of three or four children. I don't know if Christie knows it, and I'll credit her here in writing so that my daughter can thank her someday, but she really influenced my decision to have a second child. She had recently lost her father to illness and explained to me how each of the siblings in her family played their own critical role during his illness--one the responsible caretaker, one the comic, one the hugger and crier. For the first time, I realized that someday I'd have to be everything to my parents in that scenario, and that felt pretty lonely and responsibility-laden.
So, I called my option and biology cooperated, giving us a baby girl who is wildly different in personality than her brother, but equally wonderful. She adds a huge spark that this family would otherwise be missing. She's clever and chatty and up for anything. She is confident, independent, and has the best belly laugh you'll ever hear. She's high-impact, which means that some quiet time alone with her brother is an occasional special treat, but I can't imagine this family without her.
I just hope my daughter realizes that she is never ever permitted to be estranged from her brother because part of the reason she is here is to be there for him. And while big brother was here first, he is responsible for looking out for a little sister who will never ever want to be looked out for. As far as I'm concerned, I brought them into this world and I'm raising them, so I can demand they grow up to be the best of friends, even if they fight like the siblings they are.
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I have linked this post at Underblog Collective at Project Underblog.