Do you have siblings? (If not, keep reading - I'll get to you.) How many and are they boys or girls? Where do you fall in the birth order? How did you view your "spot" in the family compared with the others? If you are the oldest, did you resent the things the youngest got to do that you didn't? If the youngest, what did you want to do like the older ones? And if you are more of a middle child, how did that impact you? How do you think your birth order shaped your personality? Did you and your siblings like each other growing up or did you fight all the time? Are you close now? Or at least friends with each other?! What memories stand out about you and your siblings?I'm going to be a little different and answer from both categories! I've had the experience of being both an only child and the oldest of five. How, you ask? I was the only child of my parents. My mother passed away when I was 16, and a year later, my dad remarried. My new mom had been widowed early in her first marriage, and she had two children, a son two years younger than me and a daughter four years younger. Then she and my dad had two children together, making us five children altogether. So within three years I went from being an only, to oldest of three, to oldest of five. What a ride!
If you are an only child, how did you like that? Were you glad to have all the attention or did you want to have a brother or sister? What advantages were there to being an only child? What disadvantages? Which side of the fence is greener?!
For everyone, did your sibling experiences (or lack thereof!) affect your decision to have kids or to have a certain number?
I most definitely did not like being an only child. I wanted brothers and sisters from my earliest memory, but my mother wasn't able to have more children. So they were stuck with just me! ;) One of the advantages of being the only child was that I got to be close to my parents, although families with more than one child are very close too, so that's not exclusive to being an only child. I didn't have to share a bedroom or clothes or toys; although I wanted to do those things, most of my friends would have loved not having to share anything! One disadvantage was that I didn't have built-in playmates. I think that may be partially why I loved reading so much: I could have adventures through reading that I couldn't experience with brothers and sisters. I've wondered too if that was why I was so extremely shy as a child. When my mother got really sick, my dad and I spent lots of time together. Lots of time in hospital waiting rooms, lots of time driving back and forth to the hospital, lots of time at home. If I'd had siblings, I don't know that we would have spent those times in the same way. When my mother died, I didn't have anyone else besides my dad to share the experience, and I see that as a disadvantage. I think it might have been comforting to have siblings to share our grief. So there were pros and cons to being an only, and of course I thought the grass was greener on the other side, not realizing that there were pros and cons on that side too!
When my dad remarried, I was very excited to gain a brother and a sister, and I was excited that I'd finally get to share a room and clothes. I don't think my stepsister was all that excited about it, though! ;) We did share almost everything, and we got along well . . . except when we didn't! LOL We had the normal quibbles that "sisters" have, but we also had lots of fun times together, too. One of our favorite things to do was tell strangers that we were sisters and watch their looks of disbelief. Robyn had olive skin and black hair, and I had fair skin and red hair - there was no way that we were sisters! We rarely explained the situation. It was just too fun to watch the reactions!
This picture shows us on our parents' wedding day. The front row is our new family - Mother, Daddy, Robyn, me, and Ben.
Another favorite memory to both of us is Robyn's perverse joy in trying to scare me. She did everything from grabbing my foot in the dark while I was climbing into my top-bunk bed to chasing me around the kitchen with a huge butcher knife with me yelling, "Accidents DO happen, Robyn!" It's hilarious now, especially since she has been blessed with six daughters. Life is good. Ha!
Although I was the oldest, I was very insecure and unsure of my place in the family unit after my dad's remarriage. Being the only child from my dad's first marriage, I felt a bit alone during this phase of life. I was with my mom and siblings far more than I was with my dad at that time, and when he was home, his time was divided between three teenagers and a brand new wife. My parents had dated for just a short time, so my mom and I hadn't gotten to know each other very well before the wedding. We had a few rough patches those early years simply because we didn't know each other, and I think we had some unrealistic expectations of a blended family. You don't just automatically blend; it takes effort and it takes building friendships on which to base relationships. My advice to any parent or child about to enter into a blended family would be to chuck the expectations, become friends, and allow the relationships to grow from there.
Within a few months of our parents' marriage, we found out that a baby was on the way, and boy were we all excited! My dream of having brothers and sisters was coming true! Our baby brother was born at the end of that first year together, and two years later (after I was married), our baby sister was born. The day our baby brother was born, both Robyn and I cried; she because it was a boy and she had wanted a girl, and I because it was the baby brother I'd always wanted. I was just as thrilled when my baby sister was born (as was Robyn), although by then I was married and didn't get to see the baby very often. My husband went into the military a year later, and we have never lived close to our family again, so I didn't get to see my youngest siblings grow up.
Those babies are all grown up now. Baby Sister Rebekah is single and lives at home with our parents. Baby Brother Jason is now the father of five and a pastor in Florida. Robyn and her husband have seven children and are missionaries in Mexico, and Ben is still single and living at home due to his health. In this picture, Robyn is third from the left of the photo; her husband, Clark, is behind her. Our brother, Jason, is on Robyn's left, with his wife, Deanna, beside him.
We siblings aren't close in the sense that we call each other all the time and live near each other and spend lots of time together, but we are close in that we are loyal to each other and our parents, we get along great (we've never had any family squabbles at all), and we are all serving the Lord as a lifestyle, not just as a Sunday-go-to-church thing, giving us a common interest and a common purpose in life. I think our relationship with the Lord has made a difference in our blended family, and isn't that the way it's supposed to be?
Below are my parents with Rebekah and Ben.
As for having children of my own, neither my only-child early years nor my oldest-of-five teen years influenced how many children we had. We just had the children the Lord gave us and welcomed each one as they came, and when our family was complete, we were content.
It's been good for me to look back at my early family life. I can see the Lord's hand at work in each phase and the things that shaped who I am today, just as anyone else can. My early life was different than most people's, but God used every circumstance to grow and shape me according to His plan. I can say with David that "the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places!"