I was at the beach with my good friend and her daughter the other week. The sun was hot, I was sporting my high waisted bikini that I was finally brave enough to wear. The breeze was cooling and salty. It was one of those rarely perfect days where the tide had pulled out slowly and left little tide pools in its wake. They made perfect pools for toddlers, and instead of shooing them away from the larger waves the whole time, we got to stand there and chat, and have a conversation. In eighteen months of friendship, both of us having kids, I think this was the first time it was possible. We, of course, chatted about more kids, when was the right time? It seems that as soon as your first one is walking people start asking about the second one. Has it always been this way, or are family members just nosier nowadays? They were trying for a second and we were . . . on the fence. I was complaining,
“It takes SO long for them to start doing things. When I pictured being a mother, it was to do fun things like art projects and trips, they can’t do that for YEARS. Plus the sleep deprivation is maddening . . .”
“Yes, but it all goes so quickly, before you know it, they are doing this:” And she pointed at my son and her daughter in the sand, completely entertained, playing with each other, oblivious to the adult world. “Besides, you don’t want him to be lonely.”
Loneliness was a common argument I had heard against the only child. I have a sibling, a brother who is five years younger than me, and I still remember feeling lonely. Or, if not lonely, just bored. But I was a fairly introverted child preferring to read books and squirrel away in my bedroom upstairs than interact with other children outside.
After the loneliness argument, the other opinion I heard always revolved around what a joy siblings were to have. “My sister is my best friend!” My friend was thoroughly convinced that three was the perfect number. She was one of three kids and really liked that atmosphere. Do you just choose what you are used to? My husband is seven years younger than his brother, so in many ways both of us had the benefits that only children have. We played by ourselves a lot, had different opportunities. How do you know when you are done?
At first I thought three, maybe five kids? And then I had my son, and I thought for sure one was enough. But something happened that day at the beach; I could see the other side. I could see those fun things that I had pictured myself doing with him were just around the corner, through a hazy fog of the infant and toddler years. I once read a New York Times article that described children as a ‘back-end investment’. It was even accompanied by a great little chart. You put all the work and toil in, in the beginning, and it gets easier over the years, and the ‘pay-off’ is supposed to be when you are older and they are caring for you.
Maybe you just trust that you can weather the storm, and what will be left when the sand settles and the water pulls away is a perfect little tide pool. Each one a different size, unique and beautiful.