The children question… It was bound to happen—although I didn’t expect it to happen so soon after giving birth.
When my baby was only a handful of weeks old, someone broke the ice and asked when my husband and I would be getting more children. Of course, at the time, all we could think about was: “We love our little one, who is more than enough for us!” to which we were pestered, sometimes inappropriately so, about making plans for a following one—because we had to have a second (and sometimes third and fourth) child.
But despite the fact that my husband and I received a lot of advice, no clear pattern emerged; rather, it seemed to us that we were getting contradictory information, sometimes painfully so.
One, Two, Three or More?
If you have one child, you can focus on him; if you have one child, he will become a spoiled brat. If you have two kids, they will never want for a friend; if you have two kids, you are basically welcoming fighting into your home. If you have three kids, they will learn group dynamics from a very young age; if you have three kids, you will undoubtedly not be able to keep up with all of them, and one will for sure feel left out and unloved.
Seriously, I have heard every single one of these statements said to me in the last year.
But the thing is, I have seen a significant number of single children both blossoming under the tender, focused care of their parents and spoiled silly to the point of terrifying. Sibling duos that are best friends seem as frequent as those who never stop fighting. Trios, meanwhile, both show the ability to become a tight-knit group or an opportunity to leave one sibling behind.
Short vs Long Gap Between Siblings
Again, I have heard a lot of people say very contradictory things about the “ideal” age gap between siblings. If they are too close in age, they will be best friends; or they will compete for everything. If they have only a handful of years between them, they will be best friends; or the younger one will undermine the older one’s authority and cause chaos. If they have more than a handful of years between them, the older one can become another protective figure in the younger one’s life; or the younger one will always live in the shadow of the oldest one.
And yet again, I have seen siblings with short, medium, and large age gaps be both either incredibly horrid or absolutely amazing. Some siblings who are extremely close in age do become the best of friends with relatively no drama, while others become bitter frenemies. Siblings with a handful of years between them go from being the best of friends to resenting each other. Siblings with large gaps between their ages go from loving and healthy relationships to the ones where the oldest resents the youngest for taking the attention away from them or the youngest developing serious self-confidence issues because they are constantly compared to their oldest sibling.
It feels like what ultimately makes the biggest difference is the parenting behind the children, be there one or more, and, if there are more than one, be the age gap tiny or large. No one solution seems to apply to everyone. What seems to make the difference, then, is thoughtfulness; couples who are able to identify their inherent capacity and read the reality of their lives realistically, and then make a careful decision.
So to all your lovely parents out there: don’t worry about how many kids you “should” have and the age gap between them. Think about it; read about it; consult about it; make the decision that best suits your strengths and the reality of the children you already have; but whatever you decide, once the decision is made, stop worrying about it. Because ultimately, even if you make a decision then wish you had had a second child earlier/later or even, not at all, you can still make it work out in such a way that all your children—or your single child—will grow in a happy home into a wonderful adult.