No Longer an Only
Guest column by Michelle Sinclair
Editor’s note: Michelle Sinclair is the daughter of columnist Melodie Davis and writes occasionally for Another Way. She works in the advertising department of a major daily newspaper, and she and her husband are parents of one son.
No longer being an only child isn’t a bad thing, right? My husband and I aren’t ruining our son’s life by giving him a little brother, are we?
Maybe he will be horribly jealous the way I was when my sister Tanya arrived on the scene about two weeks after my second birthday.
These are the (somewhat facetious) questions I ponder now that I am closing in on the birth of that unnamed but already loved little brother. And I wonder as someone who not only has a great relationship with both of her sisters, but who is also the oldest of the sisters—the one who lost her only-child status at about the same age that my firstborn son will lose his.
That’s a very negative way to look at it of course; James is also gaining a lifelong companion, an ally against the parents, and a playmate. With all the good in that package, why do I keep mourning the loss of “only child” moments as the days tick away?
My husband and I have spent two years fully absorbed in our son’s life, marveling at the changes and agonizing over the trials, and I know the addition of another child will change that dynamic radically. Maybe James won’t be terribly phased by it, and this will be just another of the things I stress and worry about in advance—introducing table foods, the end of breastfeeding, one daycare transition, another daycare transition—that he simply takes in stride.
Then again, maybe he will be horribly jealous, the way I was when my sister Tanya arrived on the scene about two weeks after my second birthday. I don’t remember, naturally, and I’m very glad I had sisters growing up. Quite frankly, I relished being the oldest; I hope James does too (within reason of course—as my sisters might remind me with a roll of the eyes, “Power corrupts.”). He would have probably been very happy as an “only” too, so this isn’t to say that siblings are necessary for a fulfilled life. There are pros and cons to every number of children, including none at all! I remind myself to be grateful that my husband and I are able to have the number of children we want, and that all the other worries are just those temporary hallmarks of this current stage of our lives.
We have done what we could to prepare James. I talk about the baby in my tummy, and his father reads him Waiting for Baby and My New Baby, colorful, simple board books for toddlers by Rachel Fuller. For James’s birthday, his Grandma Davis even bought him a little boy doll that he can feed a bottle, bathe, or diaper endlessly. That poor doll often dirties his diaper right after a clean one gets put on him, which is probably why he also needs a relentless series of imaginary baths. “Don’t you think baby is cold? Maybe we should put his clothes on now that he’s had his bath,” Grandma suggests. “No. Bath time,” James says solemnly, and takes off baby’s diaper for yet another bath.
As for the real baby, it seems as though James might be starting to get it. He talks about baby sometimes and likes to touch my belly. His daycare provider recently told us that he enjoys and is very gentle with the four-month-old baby in her house. “He’s like a little adult,” she said, which is charming and gratifying for his parents to hear, but that it is mostly just his personality, and not a testament to our parenting skills. Who knows what Number 2 has in store for us! I’m sure once James adjusts to his new role, he will be a wonderful big brother.
But for a few more weeks he’s still the baby. I try to savor the “just us” moments: a Saturday afternoon lunch watching the airplanes fly overhead in a sunny Costco parking lot. Our rock-solid bedtime routine that will probably get all juggled to bits as we adjust to a newborn in the house. The quietly read book, or the snuggle on the couch after a tantrum blows itself out.
So, no, we probably are not ruining James’s life. He will adjust, we will adjust, and a new little one will have three people to fuss over him when he makes his grand entrance, not just two. After all, I remind myself, families expand all the time, in all different circumstances. Even if attention gets divided when a new baby joins a family, love does not—it grows.
How was it when a second child joined your family? We’d love to hear your stories and comments. You can also still receive our free Another Way pocket planner calendar for 2016. One reader said she’d use it for a daily gratitude calendar. Just write to MelodieD@MennoMedia.org or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.