“A brother or sister will be SO good for her.”
That’s a sentence I’ve heard a lot in the past nine months. It’s always meant well, coming from a place that refers to the excitement my four year old will feel at becoming a big sister. But, in some cases, I think there’s another meaning too. One that alludes to sharing, not always being centre of attention and having to accept a shift in the family dynamic. In short, “It will be good for her not to be an only child”.
Only children can come in for a lot of stick. Spoilt, egotistical, unable to share, doted on too much, opinionated, loud, unable to socialise… these are all some characteristics that I’ve seen associated with only children. You only need to think of Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to get the idea.
There have been times in the past when my daughter has displayed one of these traits and I’ve had a, “Time for a baby brother or sister!” thrown in my direction. As if her behaviour isn’t just normal toddler stuff, or part of her personality, but is a direct consequence of being an only child.
My daughter is independent – fiercely so. She knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to say so. When she’s with people she knows and feels comfortable with she can, at times, be positively bossy. She’s also incredibly funny, witty, caring and smart.
Looking back, aspects of her personality were there as a baby. We didn’t attempt to go down the puree weaning route for example, because she wouldn’t even take medicine from a spoon she wasn’t holding herself. Even at six months she knew her own mind and wouldn’t hesitate in letting the world know about it.
I know she’s very like me. My husband jokingly nicknames her “Nought to Sixty, Mark Two”. His nickname for me is “Nought to Sixty” because I’m quick to bite or fly off the handle – which is why he enjoys winding me up so much (he ALWAYS gets a reaction). She’s exactly the same.
As a kid, I used to throw the most spectacular tantrums. My mum delights in telling me all about them now, often when I’m looking for sympathy about one of my daughter’s own tantrums. I also loved being centre of attention and putting on shows. And I had clear views on what was right and wrong… some might say I was a tad bossy (!).
I became a big sister at the age of four – or very nearly four. The age gap between my sister and I will be the same as the one between Frog and her brother or sister. I expect my mum also had the, “A little brother or sister will be SO good for her” line too. As if people expected my personality to drastically change as soon as my mother gave birth.
And here’s the thing: it didn’t. I continued to like the limelight, be forthright in my opinions and stand my ground when I thought something was unfair. When my sister was a baby I loved the fact I had a rapt audience who could watch my dancing shows without being able to leave the room. So, my personality didn’t change. I was still the same little girl – just with a baby sister to love and play with too.
And that takes me back to the only child thing. I have no idea how I’d have turned out had I not had a little sister. My sister is also my best friend and, although in many ways we’re very different, we’re also very similar (she’ll probably hate me saying that). Most of my memories include her in some way. I was – and am – fiercely protective of her. Even when she was annoying the hell out of me I would punch anyone else who dared to say anything mean to her. But, despite all that, I firmly believe her existence didn’t radically alter who I was in terms of my own personality traits.
And I’m very ready to believe the same will be true of my own daughter. Becoming a big sister will be a huge adventure for her. But we didn’t choose to have another baby purely to give her a “play mate”. Our reasons for having another baby were pretty much the same as our reasons for having a baby four years ago. We wanted a baby – we were ready for a family, we felt like it was “the right time”.
I know many only children (and adults) who are nothing like the Violet Beauregarde model. And I know many children (and adults) with siblings, who are alarmingly Violet Beauregarde in their nature. Yes, having a baby in the house will of course shift our family dynamic. There will be big changes Frog will have to contend with.
But will a baby change her personality and turn her into a completely different child? I don’t think so.
What do you think? Do you have an only child and relate to any of the above? Maybe you come from a big family and think having lots of siblings has had a huge effect on your own personality? I’d love to know your thoughts.