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Challenge: Raising Siblings

An Open Letter to My Daughter, Who Wishes She Were an Only Child

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Dear Daughter:

As you stormed into your room today, you yelled, “I wish I was an only child!” You then punctuated your point by slamming the door.

Putting the grammatical problems of your statement aside, allow me to explain why being a child with siblings will benefit you in life.

By the way, this isn’t just my opinion. A study published in Science magazine found that kids raised with siblings are generally more trustworthy, conscientious and optimistic. Other studies have since refuted that finding, but for the purposes of this letter, I will ignore them. Choosing which research to believe is a mother’s prerogative. On to my first point.

Remember when you shared a room with your sister? You had to share closet space, collaborate to clean your room and generally learn to coexist in a small space with another human being. Fast forward to when you go off to college, when you will again need to figure out how to peacefully live in a small space with another human, but this time that roommate will be a complete stranger. You think your sister was annoying? Just wait until you have a roommate with poor hygiene who regularly leaves dirty clothes all over the floor. And don’t even get me started on how gross some people can be in the bathroom.

Next, let’s discuss those times when our family couldn’t afford all of the extracurricular activities you wanted to join. There is only a certain amount of money for clubs and teams—and it has to be split between the three of you. Yes, had you been the only child, you might not have needed to choose—or at least not because of limited financial resources. But you also wouldn’t have learned the art of figuring out what is most important, a skill that will definitely come in handy later—when you have to prioritize within your own budget.

Because there are multiple children in our family unit, you probably do more chores than your singleton cohorts. More people make more mess, and for the sake of my sanity, kids have to pitch in—early and often. But trust me on this: you will have the last laugh in the laundromat when other students are tuning their whites pink because they never learned to sort colors. And when you cook up a healthy, nutritious meal by yourself, you will be miles ahead of the other young adults who are surviving on ramen and fast food.

Sometimes you are asked to babysit your younger sibling. This has already produced paid babysitting jobs for you outside of our family because others know you are skilled at childcare. I think this will also benefit you much later in life. Negotiating deals in a boardroom will be a snap after successfully talking a 3-year-old into eating his vegetables.

Sharing is a big part of living in a large family. When you negotiate with your siblings to figure out who gets the last cookie or whose turn it is on the swing, these skills will help you later in your relationships with friends, coworkers or even your future spouse. Speaking of spouses, you might not think that learning to live with another person’s habits and quirks is valuable. But in marriage, those skills, plus communication—a skill perfected by dealing with siblings—will be a huge help in married life.

And finally, when your dad and I become old and infirm, our care won’t be your responsibility alone. Trust me, that is a burden which is lighter when shared.

I understand how you felt in that moment when you slammed the door, because I had siblings, too. And believe me, your Auntie Brenda was no picnic. Nevertheless, I am positive that living with siblings will build your character, just like all the hard things in life do. And if you haven’t stopped reading by now, just know this: I am right, because I am your mother.



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