As adults, my sisters and I are pretty close. There are things we know about each other that our parents will never know about us. They were my allies, and I was theirs. School calling because one of us cut class? No prob, one of us would cover for the truant sis, pretending to be mom on the phone. Need a note to get out of school early, or to make up for that assignment that was never done? One of us became an expert artist, able to forge both parent’s signatures at the drop of a hat (I am so not saying who). Crushed on cute boy like the wrong sister? They became strictly off limits.
Yup, we were friends growing up, in it for life. And as adults, I know I can count on my sisters for anything, and they can rely on me for the same. When our parents are gone, we will still have each other as our family. And that will never change.
I wanted to give the same thing to my daughter as my parents gave to me, offering her the happiness of growing up with a younger sibling. Except, as a recent study showed, kids with siblings are actually less happy than those who are only children.
The study cited bullying done by older children, the torment that goes on when the older child picks on the younger. And the more children in the house, the less privacy a child has. It is common for children with siblings to be forced into sharing a room. And ever try to compete for the bathroom in a multiple kid house?
As for only children, they don’t have to compete with anyone for their parent’s attention. They aren’t forced to share anything. And there is no one to fight with. Not only that, think about the influence older children have on their younger siblings. Who is the influence of an only child? The parent. And interestingly enough, the study could not find proof that an only child was lonelier than those who had siblings.
And as I think back, yeah, I can admit that the study makes some sense – because in between all that gushy “we are sisters, linked forever”, we were also extremely rotten to each other.
My youngest sister was a pain in the butt. Sorry, Heather, but you were. I do believe that she went out of her way to tease me and my middle sister, Melissa. And it didn’t help that my mom forced us to play with Heather, because seriously, who wants to play with a kid 5 whole years younger than you are when you’d rather be hanging out with kids your own age? And my middle sister? She was super popular, extremely pretty, and everyone loved her. Try living in the shadows of that. Not only was this the case, but she was the master manipulator. Rather than asking permission for anything, she just went ahead and did it, counting on my parents to decide it was too much energy to fight her on it once she had already gone for it. And 100% of the time, she was right. Because of this, Melissa was the cheerleader, a member of the track team, and participated in an ice skating competition or two. And because my mom was running ragged from all these activities, those of us who asked to join something extra were left sorely disappointed.
And me? I was no angel. I fully admit to being the bully of the three, perfecting the art of leaving half moon-shaped nail marks in the skin of their arms with impressive force to convince them that my way was right. And I was the ringleader whose team either sister wanted to be on when it came to ganging up on the other. So I never lost.
But beyond all that, I still stand by my first assessment, that having sisters made us happier. Sure, we were all out mean to each other at times. But first and foremost, we were friends. And while there were plenty of times that I swore out loud that I’d rather be an only child, the truth is, I don’t think I ever truly wished my sisters away. When I think back to the days when we’d stay up long after our parents put us to bed as we entertained each other with stories and games, or when we utilized each other’s clothing to multiply the amount of clothes available for each other, or when we confided in each other or sought advice about things that we could never share with our mother…I’d never take that away. And now, as adults, that bond is even deeper. We are creating our separate lives of marriage, family, and jobs. And yet, the bond is still there.
Besides, all my friends who were only children were spoiled rotten. Who would want that?
As for giving my daughter a friend in the shape of her brother, I’m still trying to convince each of them that they are happier with each other than without. It might work…when they’re adults.
What do you think? Are only children happier than those with siblings?