‘You can’t just have one’ they say, ‘they’ll need a sibling to play with’.
‘Oh it’s so nice you have had them close together, they will be best friends. They will grow up together and be so close’, they say to me. I think they are trying to make me feel better about my 11 month age gap and darkening circles under my eyes and loosening grip on my sanity.
The reality however looks a lot more like this:
They are one and two and already fighting over toys. If one has something the other wants it. If one is sat on my lap the other wants to get closer – even though it is impossible. The fighting has already begun. What is it going to be like when they can both talk, run, punch? Neither of them listen to me now so I don’t hold out much hope as the authoritative figure for the days to come.
Having two children, two young children at that, is hard. Oh so bloody hard. You do not have a second to yourself. If one doesn’t want you the other will – or they both do at the same time. You have to give up all your time to these little people but we know that though right? That’s what we signed up for. Maybe, yes, but that doesn’t make it easier when you just want to sit on a loo without a baby, or two, clawing at your knees.
Some days I look around at people in the park playing with one child, giving them their undivided attention and wonder. I wonder if that child is better off for having that one on one. I wonder if that mum feels less stressed at the constant demand of her offspring (although somehow I doubt it).
I see people’s face when we board a flight with not one but two young children. I see the horror in their eyes and the disapproval at our presence on ‘their’ flight and wonder – would they look at us like this if there was only one potential disruption to their flight? Would they judge us if we outnumbered one child by two parents?
I remember the look on people’s face when I used to arrive with my one-year old and a new-born. I remember their judgment, their whispers, the occasional sympathetic if not condescending smile. I remember thinking it must be nice to blend in and sit and play with your one child and not feel the looks of others watching to see how you cope with two.
I remember the stress of a crying newborn vs a crying one-year old. I remember trying to decide who’s needs come first. Who’s nappy to change, which mouth to feed.
I remember going from one sleepless baby to another throughout the night.
I remember, vaguely, what me time was.
I remember, vaguely, who I was, before my life became consumed by keeping two small and needy humans alive and attending to their every need.
I wonder how much more money we would have if we had just had the one. I wonder if we would have travelled more. I wonder if I would have gone back to work, my career. I wonder what it might have become. I wonder what I would be like.I wonder if my children would have fared better as one.
Then I saw something, something that shut me up and stopped my wondering. Something that gave me a lump in my throat and filled my eyes.
I saw Alistair Brownlee help his struggling brother finish a triathlon. You no doubt know the Brownlees’, the are successful tri-athletes who won gold and silver medals in the Rio and London Olympics. Younger brother (incidentally only younger by two years) Johnny was struggling, he could barely walk let alone run, he was but minutes from the finish line in first place. Struggling with the conditions, he was almost passed out on the floor when older brother Alistair caught him and propped him up. He kept him that way for the remaining several hundred meters to get him across the finish line, but it didn’t end there. When he got to the line he thrust his brother over the line to finish in second place and himself in third. I have also heard that part of the reason for ensuring his brother finished the race was not just to keep his world standing in tact but because he knew that’s where the medical staff would be. That’s where his brother could get the best help that he needed. That is a sibling.
I expect Mrs Brownlee had times when her two were small when they weren’t always so compassionate, when they fought or when she wanted to tear her hair out, but look what it has become. She must have exploded with pride watching her sons, if it’s possible to be anymore proud when you have two Olympic champions for sons eh.
The world didn’t just see a race that day, the world saw the loving bond of a sibling that you cannot break, something you are brought up with, something that is part of you. We saw someone being there for another and putting that person ahead of themselves. That is the relationship I hope for for my children.
Having had two babies I can totally understand being part of the one and done club. I find myself worrying so much that I am not giving each child what they need, that having two so close has somehow halved my ability to parent. Yet what I saw by the Brownlees’ put all my worries and wonderings to bed and it gave me some much needed perspective.
What about you? Do you worry about the impact of having one, two or more children?