Last year, there was one kid in my daughter’s class who didn’t have siblings. Mine. I don’t think the teacher realized this. But when they would talk about playing or home life, they often talked about their brothers and sisters. My kid would come home and ask when she would have one. She would talk about wanting one, I think, mainly because her friends all had one.
There’s no way she understood what she was asking for. She thought she was asking for a playmate. There are many kids shows and movies that stress the importance of sibling relationships. Frozen, for example, centres the relationship of the sisters — the curse is lifted by an act of true sister love, after all. (Sorry for the spoiler, but really, that movie came out in 2013 so you had fair chance.)
My point is that, though we decided carefully that one child was right for us, there is much around us promoting the idea that families should have two or more children. Depictions of only children are fairly uncommon, and where you find them, attention is rarely drawn to it. Especially not to the same extent that sibling relationships are stressed in similar circumstances.
This emphasis on love between siblings is obviously well-meaning. Those would be among the most formative in a child’s early life. Modelling positive relationships and valuing sibling may be intended to counter the strong pull of sibling rivalry. I’ll admit I don’t know if that’s the reason, or if it would work.
This is just a little annoyance that we, as parents of one child, have to deal with. But we all know that it is the little, everyday things that mean the most. My kid is a very happy kid. When she’s missing a playmate and her parents are busy, she has a number of pretend people to call on. (She has seven pretend brothers and sisters, including two her age, as they are triplets. I can list their names if you’d like.) She has buddies at school and one down the street. She loves her cousins. I am not worried about her.
It’s me. I had always envisioned having a large family. But there were complications at her birth, and I had terrible postpartum anxiety and depression. It made me face that I’d had these to some extent for years, and that it had been under-treated. My partner and I concluded that getting and staying healthy was the most important thing. But it meant I had to give up that future.
I still mourn that, the life with the big house and large happy family. Because if we did that we could get the large family part, but I do not believe we would be happy.
Where we are now is amazing, and I feel very lucky. We have a small house in a neighborhood we adore, with an amazing school and teachers. There are tons of nice kids in the neighborhood and a park a block away. My kid can boss around her pretend siblings as much as she wants and they (for the most part) do what she says. (If she had ended up with a younger sibling that kid would have had a rough time.)
We’re doing pretty well, all things considered. It’s been hard to get and stay here. But, every once in a while she still asks for a sibling, and I have to take a deep breath and remind her, and myself, that we are meant to be a three person family. Even though I know that is the truth.