Two heads are better than one, but what about two children? Welcome in to PG, where we offer atonement for our past indiscretions…which simply means I wrote a billion words a few weeks ago about how having one child is far more pleasurable than multiple kids (The Downside of Having More Than 1 Child) and somehow forgot to make the alternate case. My second daughter Everly, while only 8 months old, has been giving me the evil eye all week so I’m guessing she senses a disruption in the universe (namely, that her father actually wrote an article that multiple kids wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows). I must make amends to my second child and share with the world all the good things about makin’ like bunnies and popping out extra little tax credits.
The best part of having more than one kid is the built-in babysitter the older sibling becomes. Have I benefitted from this advantage? Of course not! I’d leave my 8 month old with a rabid wolverine before I’d leave her with her older sister Eliza. The toddler too often enjoys wrapping her arms around her sister’s neck (‘hugs’), squeezing her cheeks together with her fists (‘kisses’), and gritting her teeth with fury as she laughs maniacally pulling her sister by a stray pajama leg. Still, I anticipate someday possibly trusting her—she has a long way to go though—and I know several large families where the older siblings become mom or dad’s right-hand man (or woman). Your house, after all, is basically a corporation you run, so you might as well employ a little delegation now and then.
Along similar lines and more applicable to the younger munchkins, siblings can also serve as fantastic diversions. In fact, I’m pretty sure toddlers and diversions are synonymous; there isn’t a three year old alive who isn’t a walking, talking distraction. Anyway, the good thing about this with multiple children is having a de facto plaything in human form. Is the baby crying? Here, look at your crazy brother eating crayons and beating a plastic drum against the wall! Need a minute free from an older child? Hey, can you please check on your little sister and tell her to clean her room? Every older sibling is going to leap at the chance to go oversee (read: boss) their younger siblings. And younger siblings are usually fascinated by the goings-on with those older. Parents: these miniature humans are at the ready to make your life easier for small chunks at a time….use them wisely.
Another great thing about having more than one kid is developing fallback options in case the first one doesn’t work out too well. That may have come out a little terrible sounding, so allow me to explain. I know, I know, I know in the deepest nooks and crannies of my heart, that my child will love 90s pop culture just as much as me. My kid will grow up on Arthur and Sesame street, move on to Nickelodean classics, transition into Full House reruns, and ultimately fall in love with Boy Meets World and Saved by the Bell just as I did. I dream about my oldest Eliza and I bonding over all my cherished memories. And if she doesn’t take to it or dare disrespects my adored relics of childhood? YOU’RE OUT KID, GO GET ME YOUR SISTER! And I’ll try again. Siblings basically translate to backup kids. Did you want an athlete but your oldest isn’t coordinated enough to tie his shoes at 9? Boom, backup kid. Did you want a musical whiz but your daughter sounds like a constipated frog when she tries to sing? Boom, backup kid. Whatever you’re looking for…just keep trying.
One of the other great advantages of multiple kids is it directly translates to multiple excuses! The more kids and longer ‘kid window’ you have, the longer the time you have a readily available scapegoat. Do you want to have a single child and have society cruelly expect you to recover physically within a few years? OR do you want to have kids for several years and have a good decade-plus excuse of “It’s the baby weight!” or “Teething has just wrecked my sleep schedule” or “I just don’t have the time to hit the gym with all these kids schedules”? It doesn’t stop there either. You have a rambunctious family you frequently like to ditch? The more children, the more avenues of escape! “Sorry we can’t make it (or have to leave early)! It’s naptime. Or bedtime. Or nursing time. Or a soccer game. Or band practice. Or whatever. For all their faults, kids give you all the excuses you need to navigate away from all social interactions.
Finally, I’ll allow myself a moment of genuine appreciation for parenting siblings. It is such a uniquely wonderful experience to witness my two daughters connect with each other and form an affection that can never be equaled in any other relationship. Since my youngest is only 8 months, we are still in the early stages of this development, but I can hardly contain my appreciation when I hear the infant squealing in fascinated joy at her sister’s antics. It’s equally touching getting a front row seat in witnessing my daughter’s newfound willingness to share (well, most of the time) and protect her little sister. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that watching their relationship evolve and find its way through all the hills and valleys of childhood will easily be one of the best parts of having more than one child.
But then again, they’ll probably start ganging up on me soon and I’ll regret I ever thought another child was a good idea…just kidding…I think.