I think some people have personalities that are perfect for being only children. I don’t say that to defend people who decide to only have one child (they don’t need me to defend them; only children are usually wonderful), I say it because one of my four non-only children illustrates this for me daily. R, who just turned three, is unbelievably easy to parent when she is alone, and often very difficult when her siblings are around. I’m starting to suspect that if she were an only child she would be ONLY easy.
When R is home without any other children around, here is how she typically likes to divide her time:
- Wandering around carrying a special toy and singing
- Playing with a pillow on the living room couch
- Looking at books
- Climbing “mountains,” which means anything taller than herself such as the counter or a bunk bed
- Talking to her toys
- Stomping around in fancy shoes
- Trying on various hats
- Talking to her reflection in the mirror
- Drawing on herself, which is problematic but quiet, and
- More singing.
She will occasionally need a diaper change (she’s not interested in potty training. It’s fine.) or a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but that’s often all she needs for hours. Plus, you know how kids are so cute when they are sleeping? They are also cute when they are playing quietly by themselves, have you noticed that?
And when R is home WITH other children, which is most of the time, of course, here is how she typically likes to spend her time:
- Jumping from the arm rest of the couch onto her sisters’ laps or heads
- Finding someone’s “special” item and giving it to them even if they don’t want it right then
- Following her sisters up to their room and banging on their door when they don’t let her in
- Sitting on her sisters’ backs
- Tackling her little sister
- Pulling her little sister’s hair
- Running away from her little sister screaming, “Monster!”
- Asking to eat whatever anyone else is having and then leaving it lying on the living room carpet
- Convincing her little sister to copy her in doing something wrong and then giggling with her about it (dumping water on the floor, pulling books off the shelves, drawing on the floor, playing in Mommy’s makeup and deodorant, and so on)
- Sitting in Time Out. This may not be her favourite activity but she seems to be spending more and more time doing it anyway.
She often spends time at Grandma’s house, because my mom will volunteer to take her for a few hours once and a while. That gives me and, more importantly, R’s little sister, a bit of a break. Whenever she drops her off again, my mom reports that she was as easy as pie and completely adorable. It was my mom who first said, “I think she was meant to be an only child!” Thanks, Mom. Helpful tip.
But she’s not an only child, and I think we’re definitely all better off because of it. It is great for her siblings because they get to giggle with her so often, any time they are not running away from her or crying because of something she did. She is so much fun so much of the time, and we are all learning that every member of the family has wonderful qualities as well as ones that require patience.
Besides, if R were an only, we’d probably be very worried that her ability to play so well on her own may be indicative of the fact that she doesn’t play well with her peers. The fact that she has siblings allows us to know for sure. She really doesn’t play well with her peers.