I have this amazing friend who is basically a single mama superhero. She is stunning (in the kind of shape I have never in my entire life been in), successful in her career, completely committed to parenting and always jetting off on some new adventure or another with her sidekick—a little girl who is full of her mama's spunk and energy.
I am not kidding you when I say I look at this mama some days and wonder how in the heck she does it all.
But recently she posted something on Facebook that struck me. It was about the numerous comments she gets regarding how her daughter "needs" a sibling, and how rude, presumptuous and downright out-of-line those comments are.
As I read her post, I thought to myself, "You go, Mama!"
For the record, I have always wanted a large family. The idea of having an only never really crossed my mind, until I dealt with infertility, enduring singledom (I think they used to call it "spinsterhood") and the realization that my daughter (adopted in the most serendipitous of ways) and I have a pretty damn good life together. If it is only ever just the two of us, both she and I will be just fine.
She doesn't need a sibling any more than I need another child. Which is to say, it would be nice—and I certainly remain open to the possibility—but I also see the beauty ahead in the life I could create for us if it is only ever just her and me.
You know what kids need? Love, support, guidance, food, shelter and maybe a little more love. But a sibling?
I think people mean well enough when they comment on the need for a sibling. Nobody intends any harm; they are simply remembering back to their own childhoods, to the fun they had with their siblings, or the loneliness they may have felt as only children themselves. Plus, we all know the stereotypes surrounding only children, and I have certainly known an only child or two myself who has lived up to those stereotypes.
But what people forget is that those really are just stereotypes. The recent research points to the fact that only children are not nearly as lonely as we've been led to believe, and that they actually fare better than kids with siblings in some areas, including academic pursuits. And, as long as we're talking in anecdotes, I've also known only children in my past who in no way lived up to the stereotypes attributed to them; they were kind, generous, loving people who were raised by parents that worked hard to mold them as such.
Whether or not a child has a sibling is not the defining factor for the type of person they will become, and no child needs a sibling. You know what kids need? Love, support, guidance, food, shelter and maybe a little more love. But a sibling? That's about as crucial to development as a puppy—sure, lessons can be gained from the added responsibility, but it certainly isn't the only way to grow into a responsible adult.
Look, if I am ever blessed with another child, I have no doubt my daughter will benefit from having a little brother or sister to grow up alongside. But she's not going to grow into a spoiled, selfish person without one—which, let's be honest, is the underlying implication whenever anyone suggests that a child needs that brother or sister.
How about instead of commenting on the size of other people's families, or when/if they should add on to those families, we instead make a solemn vow to recognize that it's none of our business. Not only because you have no idea what another family has dealt with (infertility, loss or struggles in their romantic relationship that make adding on seem like a bad idea) but also because no child needs a sibling. And asserting that they do is just kind of an asshole thing to say.
Don't be an asshole. Just don't comment on another person's family. Because you don't know the whole story, and your compilation of anecdotal evidence does not make you an expert on what any child might need.
One thing I can say for sure? My friend's little girl is going to be just fine if she is forever an only child. Mostly because she has a superhero for a mama. One who works hard, every single day, to make sure she has everything she needs—and so much more.