Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Gift of Siblings

Last summer I had an interesting conversation with my sister-in-law about family size.  She told me about her best friend from high school--an only child whose world revolved around her. "She had her own bedroom and her own office. When it was time to plan a family vacation, they just went where she wanted." As a teenager my sister-in-law felt a tad envious of her friend's self-centered existence.

I listened and thought. I have known wonderful people who didn't have any siblings. And who wouldn't enjoy a world that revolved around them, especially as a teenager? But I'm not sure this planet needs more people who think they are the center of the universe. For years I have said that one of the nicest things I can do for my kids is give them siblings. A sibling is a childhood playmate and a dear friend for adulthood. Siblings sometimes understand us better than anyone else can.
Large families present other advantages, too. This year we have all had to be sensitive to Emma's extra needs with her glaucoma. It hasn't been easy. But through it all I have hoped and prayed that our children could learn something about compassion and sacrificing to care for another. When you want to raise children who are selfless and look for opportunities to serve others, these sorts of experiences can be an answered prayer.

Then recently I saw this article  that draws a correlation between family size and future marital success. Children who come from families with several children have to learn to deal with multiple personalities and opinions all in the same environment. They gain an understanding of how to roll with the punches--and each additional sibling a child has (up to seven children) increases their future chances for marital success:

“In terms of some social outcomes, kids from large families are more likely to flourish,” said Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project. “They’re less likely to get divorced. It might be the experience early in life of learning to share so much and live with the exceptional stress of having all those different personalities to deal with.”
Ohio State University research suggests that only children are the least likely to marry and most at risk of divorcing, while people with four to seven siblings have markedly lower rates of divorce.
Maybe people from big families grow up knowing that they’re not going to win every battle. Maybe they understand from birth that they’re not alone in life. Or maybe they learn early on to play well with others.
“All those life experiences may have prepared them better for marriage,” Wilcox said.
Read more here:
Some people don't understand why I would choose to have so many kids. But I know that I am trying to sacrifice for a future outcome that will take decades to unfold. A little extra work for us right now means more joy in a few more years--for us, our children, grandchildren, and future generations.
So perhaps the next time I encourage my children to share a toy, wait patiently for each other, or help each other, I will remind myself that I am increasing their chances for a happy marriage.

When you give a child a sibling, you are giving them a gift that lasts forever.

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