There are so many reasons I decided to have a second child. I have a younger brother, and I think life events are more fun when there are other kids around to share them with. My kids (so far) don’t have any cousins, so a sibling would keep my older son from being the only kid at the kids’ table at holidays. Having a mother and a grandmother who are both “only children”, I’ve seen how tough it is when the burden of caring for aging parents falls on the shoulders of only one child. A sibling is a “friend for life”, so by having a second child, I would be providing my kids with a guaranteed BFF, right? While going through pregnancy/birth/newborns/babies/etc certainly wasn’t easy, it was something I knew I wanted to do more than once. I loved my first son so much…I was excited at the thought of a second awesome kid to love. I should add that I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with having an only child, but for me, I always knew it wouldn’t be “one-and-done”. Having two kids, however, hasn’t exactly been as I’d envisioned it.
The guaranteed BFF thing, for example, has been a big, huge, giant failure, or so it would appear most days. When I brought my younger son home from the hospital, I’d envisioned my then two year old son wanting to hold, feed, and cuddle his new brother. Instead, he begged me to send the baby back to the hospital. I have scant few pictures of them together in the early days, and I’m going to be honest: the few that do exist were all made possible by promising my older son ice pops for “just one nice picture!”
I remained hopeful. I re-read “Siblings Without Rivalry” for the third time, tried really hard to split my time up to give them individual attention, and I kept praising the heck out of any positive interactions I saw. As they got older, however, it started to become clear that they’d each gotten their own worst nightmare in a sibling: My older son is solitary, prefers to play alone, and isn’t very physical. My younger son wants nothing more than to be surrounded by playmates, and hugs everyone to pieces. They were, and are, totally different people. And it’s been a rough road for the past three years.
As my “baby” approaches his third birthday, however, they seem to finally be finding some common ground. Being opposites has helped my older son learn to cope with more outgoing friends, and having a more introverted older brother is teaching my younger son the much-needed lesson that not everyone wants to be hug-attacked all the time. They’re learning valuable things from each other. They’ve found ways to play together that they both enjoy. They tell each other jokes, create projects together, and while they still fight about things frequently, they are starting to truly enjoy each other’s company.
Then, finally, last weekend, I had my first glimmer that they *might* even secretly be friends. My husband was out on Saturday night, catching up with an old friend from college. I read bedtime stories to the boys together in my younger son’s room, then my older son left to go play on his own while his little brother went to bed. Before he left, my older son leaned in and hugged his little brother– on his own, without my prompting– and said “Goodnight, love you! Get some good sleep!” Then he leaned over and whispered to me “I figured I’d better do that so he wouldn’t be sad Daddy isn’t home to hug him tonight.” I was proud and surprised and thrilled. Three years of hard work from all of us is paying off!
I have to say honestly, having two kid hasn’t been exactly what I’d envisioned. It wasn’t brotherly love at first sight, they haven’t been inseparable playmates, and there has been a lot more fighting than I thought there could ever possibly be…but it has also been fantastic in ways we hadn’t even imagined.