This crazy woman in California who had the eight kids via in vitro fertilization has my mind fixated these days. Supposedly, she hated being an only child when she was younger and decided at an early age that come hell or high water, she was gonna have herself a large family.
The decision to have many children or not can be a lose-lose situation. I've heard only children complain that they really wanted a sister or a brother, and I've heard children of large families wish they were an only child. (The funniest story I ever heard was from my sister-in-law's in-laws, and the only girl, who was not the oldest, was complaining that her parents should have only had one child, to which her oldest sibling responded, "I wish they would have stopped at one, too.")
Having never been an only child, my guess is that only children are showered with lots of individual attention from the parents. That can be good and bad, I guess. Good because of attention; bad because only one person to blame everything. No need to ask, "Who left this opened can of tuna in the cupboards?" Uh, Mom, I guess now is as good a time as any to finally admitting to that one.
But having lots of siblings isn't all it's cracked up to be either. There's always one sibling who gets more toys than the others. The used Porsche she got to drive to school for an entire year. The expensive $250 letterman's jacket. The Estee Lauder makeup for prom. Kathy! Kathy! Kathy! Sorry, what was I talking about?
Siblings. So now I'm a parent of three delightful girls, and already sibling rivalry is creeping up. My second is the perpetually picked on one. I have a soft spot in my heart for her. (I was the very, very picked on one, too, right, siblings?) But I also have a soft spot in my heart for my oldest, who is eager to please and very helpful. The funny thing is, when she's away at school, the second one becomes more helpful and more sweet. But when all three are together, she whines and says things like, "You didn't give me a high five for being a great helper." Well, Sweetheart, you just sat on the couch watching TV and refusing to help. But she doesn't see it the way I see it. She sees it as me playing favorites, and not as me rewarding good behavior.
And then there's the baby of the family who is just adored and knows it. She can do no wrong. And then parents ruin the hopes and dreams of the baby of the family by having another baby, and the cycle continues. Knowing where and when to end that cycle is a delicate, private decision.
But if Grandma McEuen ruled the world, she'd limit children to four. That's what she told me once when I lived with her. "When your mother called me and told me she was pregnant with you, I told her she was a 'blockhead.'" You see, I was the fifth child. Grandma's perfect family ended in four: two boys and two girls. Mom went on to have five more children after me. But maybe Grandma was right. Maybe Mom should have stopped at four. Sorry, B.J., Mary, Hetty, Wayne, and Ed, but we all know the perfect family stops at four. What? That would mean I wouldn't be born either? I mean, five. The perfect family stops at five. Now who's the blockhead?