Only children parents of multiple kids
January 20, 2011 9:01 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are only children, and we're now expecting our second child. We're very excited, but we are also a little nervous. We'd love advice from only child parents of multiple kids, suggestions about books and websites, etc.
posted by mrstrotsky to Human Relations (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The book "Siblings Without Rivalry" is raved about in the UK. And Mumsnet is a very good, very funny forum for parents here.

What will the age gap of your children be? Do you have a good relationship with all the grandparents?

And last but not least, congratulations!!
posted by katiecat at 2:19 AM on January 21, 2011

I'll pass on what a friend told me and I agree: to be effectively cared for, every child takes 1.5 parents. At 2 kids, you're outnumbered.

I make sure that I tell my kids often how much they're loved (and try to distinguish between hating behavior and not the child), and that pays back.
posted by plinth at 3:56 AM on January 21, 2011

I’m not a parent, but have a view on this as my sister and I are the first non-only-children for 3 generations in our family. ie my mum, her mum and her grandma are all only children.
What I wish my mum had known is that arguing and fighting with siblings is normal. Growing up, my sister and I fought quite a bit, which was a real shock to our family. I distinctly remember my grandma crying as she watched us argue about who had the bigger piece of cake! An only child gets which ever piece of cake they want, but 2 kids have to learn to compromise. Your kids will fight, argue, yell at and occasionally hate each other. Don’t panic – this may not have been part of your childhood, but it is completely normal and in no way makes you bad parents.
Today, in our mid 30’s, my sister is one of my best friends.
posted by sleepy boy at 4:13 AM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm an oldest child and have three kids but I'd like to give you some advice anyway. sleepy boy really nails it above.

One of the most important things I've learned is to let them work things out themselves as much as possible. Don't let them come running to you for resolution to every conflict. Of course you may have to step in at some point, but giving them the opportunity to come to a compromise on their own can teach them some pretty important skills. Little arguments now can save massive arguments later.

My sister and I were irritated by each other constantly until we were in our late teens, now she's one of my closest friends and we talk for hours every week on the phone.

Also, I try to teach my kids that while we try to be as fair as possible (everybody gets the same size dessert, things like that) life can't always be that way. They are different people and because they are individuals they will have different experiences. When my daughter gets invited to a party and my son doesn't I can remind him about the field trip he gets to go on that his sister won't. I try to help them think of the things they do get to have and do instead of the things they don't. I once knew a family where all the kids had to participate in every activity/treat/party or nobody was allowed to go. Those poor kids hardly got to go anywhere. Life isn't fair, and learning that fact with siblings is a lot easier than trying to learn it in college with roommates.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:58 AM on January 21, 2011

My brother and I are the children of an only child and an only-surviving-child (dad's little brother died when he was three). Like the others above say, they did a pretty good job of encouraging us to work things out between ourselves.

Two examples come to mind: 1) one kid cuts the two pieces of cake, the other kid gets first choice; and 2) after a certain age, if one of us tattled, we both generally got some quiet time in our room. The second one felt unfair sometimes, as I was the little sister usually tattling, but it was merely a deterrent to involving mom in every disagreement, not a real barrier if there was a major problem. We worked stuff out and remained close
posted by ldthomps at 6:18 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of advice you get is going to be person-specific and your kids are going to be their own people. What I mean is: everyone is different and what works with one won't necessarily work with another.

That said, I have much older half-brothers who were all out of the house by the time I was eight years old, and I've been told they weren't around much before then because they were teenagers living their own lives, not having tea parties with me (which would have been much more fun, I think). I don't remember them being a regular part of my everyday life, at all. So yeah, I was pretty much an only child, with the benefit of siblings to bond with as adults.

I'll agree with others and say that I do have a harder time than my husband (who is the youngest of four) when it comes to our kids fighting. But there are gradations of fighting. Disagreeing and arguing are fine. Raised voices are not, and physical fights are out of the question. I have a friend who has four boys and I have actually stopped going to her house because it's seriously Lord of the Flies-type fighting over there (and my husband agrees, so it's not just me). But I think that's more of a "be kind to each other" philosophy than it is a "I don't know what siblings are like" thing.

My kids have (mostly) always adored each other. Our son was completely enamored of his sister from day one and they were best friends for years and years (they're almost exactly three years apart in age). They're still very close but they're nearly 14 and nearly 11 now so they have their own things going on. We made sure to make him a part of the process very early on: he came to the ultrasounds, he "helped" paint her room, he helped us shop for things. We always referred to her as "our baby" and I never, ever said "I can't do X, Y, and Z because of the baby." I think he had 'buy-in' from the beginning and he didn't feel like he was being replaced.

What it boils down to is: we treat each other with respect, love, and kindness as a family.
posted by cooker girl at 6:31 AM on January 21, 2011

Someone mentioned tattling, so I'll give this advice. Teach your children to ask this question about tattling:

Will the tattling get the other person INTO trouble or OUT of trouble?

Some examples:
Sister was climbing on countertop. This is not allowed in our house and this tattle will get her in trouble. I don't want to hear it.
Sister was climbing on the countertop AND now she's stuck and can't get down (or she fell off and broke her leg). This is technically tattling, but Sister needs help and you have to tattle in order to get it, so this is good tattling.
posted by CathyG at 7:15 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

To go along with sleepy boy's advice above, I would also recommend the book NurtureShock. There's a chapter on sibling rivalry and fighting, and even though my sister and I fought like wolverines when we were kids, it helped me understand and cope with my own kids' fighting.
posted by SamanthaK at 7:47 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

When our son was born, he 'gave' lots of lollipops to our 2-yo daughter. She was intrigued that this new creature brought her so many gifts, and didn't mind not being the center of attention those early days because she could just sit in a corner and work overtime on the hard candy.

It was such a simple gesture but it shaped how she thought of him from the very beginning.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 8:14 AM on January 21, 2011

One thing that we did which seemed to help a lot is to set expectations for our son before or daughter was born. We told him things like, "Babies need lots of attention and care, so we are going to have to spend more time with your sister, but we will always love you so much." And try, now and then, to put aside a little special time for the older child.
posted by d4nj450n at 8:33 AM on January 21, 2011

Response by poster: Great answers so far, thank you! Our daughter will be 3.5 years older than her younger sibling, and we have a great relationship with the grandparents. We're moving to the same city as my parents, in fact, which I think will help a lot.
posted by mrstrotsky at 8:52 AM on January 21, 2011

Speaking as a second child, I would like to encourage you to please memorialize your second child as you did with the first, and sometimes apart from them.

There are zillions of photos of my brother as a baby / toddler. There are very, very few of me, and the ones that do exist almost inevitably also have him in them. It's not that I mind pics of me and him, but it would have been nice if my parents had taken any pictures of just me.

I'm sure it's because they were busier with two kids than one and there just wasn't a lot of times when we were separated and could be photographed apart, but I still get pouty when I think about it, and I'm 33.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:18 PM on January 21, 2011

« Older Need help with immigration/visitation laws in the...   |   [whine filter] How do I deal with burnt bridges... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.