Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Two is the hardest

In my urban, mostly liberal community, most people have no more than 3 children.  My 5 make me something of an anomaly then.  I frequently get asked by young parents for my advice on whether they should have a second.  They are so overwhelmed with their only child, and can hardly imagine doubling the effort for a second.  Yet here I am with 5, and still have energy to pursue hobbies and other interests.

I always tell them, "Two is the hardest.  If you have a second, do yourself a favor, and keep going."

This is certainly baffling at first.  Why should two be harder than 3 or 4?  Yet that has been my experience, both among my peers as a mother and as a sibling.  I suspect that most families stop at two children because it is just SO HARD that they are scared silly of having any more.

My explanation for this phenomenon rests on two arguments.

First, from the parents' point of view.  When you have just one child, the parents outnumber the kid, and can control most facets of his/her life.  This is a ton of work, but if all you have is one egg, you put it in your basket, and you WATCH THAT BASKET.  Yeah, you might turn into a basket case, but the kid will be the stereotypical only child overachiever you always wanted.  Or else a spoiled brat.

When the second child comes along, most parents think they can still control most everything.  After all, we are big, they are little, and there's nothing they can do about it, right?  WRONG! The kids don't have jobs, housekeeping, or other worries of the world.  They can spend all their time driving you crazy, and still have time for legos, soccer practice and Saturday morning cartoons.  (Oops, I just dated myself -- who depends on network TV scheduling for their cartoon fix these days...?)

As soon as the third child arrives, most parents sensibly realize that they CANNOT control everything, so they stop trying -- how liberating!  The children will actually be OK!  I find that these days, I don't worry too much about everyday bumps or sniffles.  I make sure the kids are clothed and fed, are not killing each other, and have ample opportunity to develop their individual talents, and then I sit back and enjoy!  Is there more work? Of course.  I still need to get up at night for my youngest, and I need to budget my time to make sure everyone's needs are met.  But in a way, dealing with the wide range of issues from toddler to adolescent is less stressful than being obsessed about just one or two.  More interesting! 

The second argument is from the kids' point of view.  I am the younger of 2 siblings myself.  When there are only two, there is only one outlet for all the sibling emotions, both positive and negative.  As soon as my third was born, it was like an extra pressure valve.  Now my children take turns ganging up on each other, so they all get to see each other's good and bad sides and develop much closer relationships.

What do you think?

*Note: These are generalities!  Of course there are exceptions to everything I said here......

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