I knew I wanted to have more than one child from the moment children crossed my mind. I’m the youngest of three and have very fond memories of childhood, memories of companionship, adventure, dares and bikes and trees and rope swings. I wanted my children to build those same ties, to share their life, their experiences with someone who simply accepted them for who they are, because they are a part of them. My husband however is an only child and a very happy sibling free one at that. According to him he’s never yearned for a brother or sister, that they just seem like a lot of extra hassle! I think his opinion is somewhat affirmed by those 2am phone calls from one brother or the other, needing rescuing from some fast food carpark or the time both of them fell out, had a bit of a fight and someone’s collarbone got broken. Sibling love, a very complex messy thing, but there’s so much more to it than that.
Love, hate, love, hate. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them and you wouldn’t want to. For a time you know these people better than anyone else in the world, then you become complex hormonal teenagers and a gap may grow for a few years. But you wouldn’t change them, you wouldn’t be without them.
When our first daughter Nancy was born our whole life altered to fit with this small new person’s many needs. You change your sleeping habits, eating habits, washing habits, feed, feed, feed, nap, feed, feed some more, wash once in a while if you’re lucky, feed and so it goes on. But eventually you find a rhythm, you learn what this little thing needs to be happy, food and love, seemingly no sleep what so ever and you start to feel a little more human each day. As your child becomes more independent other aspects of your life may return, the time to read, the time to take a walk on your own for a moments peace, room to think.
But then something happens, something rather confusing, just as you are finally getting a little more sleep, having a shower and not imagining you can hear your small child crying throughout there’s a tug in your heart and a need starts to grow inside you. What if you had another baby? Wouldn’t it be so lovely to give your child someone to play with at home, it might in fact make life a little easier surely? But could you love another child like you love now, this all-consuming, fierce and protective love that you would never have imagined before?
Then this small new person arrives and your heart opens to them, already familiar with what to do, how to wrap them up in love and warmth. You introduce them to their sibling, the person who has watched them grow, whispered to them through your bellybutton, offered them peanuts and made you lie there until they see a kick of approval.
You see the love and adoration, but also the jealousy and confusion and you feel conflicted, can you now give your older child the attention they have needed and always had up until this point, will you have the time to stare into the eyes of this new baby and learn them like you learnt the mind of their sister? The answer is no and yes and more. It’s hard, so much harder than you thought, you could never have imagined the emotional guilt, was this a mistake, perhaps you can’t do this? And then you hear a little giggle, a small new voice finding itself and you see an older sister putting on a show and those big adoring eyes of a baby seeing their lifelong friend and you realise this will all work out, everyone moves upwards out of the hazy darkness of the early months and life begins again, but you are all changed.
I wonder how our life would be now if we just had Nancy, would she feel she was missing out on something, someone, but I’d like to think she would be like her father, forging strong friendships, building a different kind of brother/sisterhood, one born through a common interest and spark of understanding. I guess you can’t truly miss something if you haven’t experienced it. I do sometimes think how much easier it could have been, spread less thinly, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
I watch the girls together, age 4 and 2 and wonder will they always know each other like they do now, know how to make each other laugh, know how to make each other cry and shriek with anger. Some days things are more unbalanced than I would like, they wake and meet each other with a scowl and you know it’s going to be a tricky one, but there will always be the common ground they share to pull them back together.
As Summer slowly approaches I’m looking forward to easier days, days when we are outside from morning until evening, days when their friendship really finds it’s comfort zone, exploring the beach, building dams and running naked, hand in hand, down to the sea, taking beautiful pleasure in the simplest of things. They are both so strong willed that clashes of character are inevitable but much more frequent cooped up indoors. They are like dogs really, in need of exercising, distracting, tiring out their bodies and minds. Their ability to fight and argue so hard and then forget it all and fall into each other’s arms with such love and affection will always surprise and entertain me. They are a team after all, willing each other to succeeded and standing by to support each other forever.