Kids ask a lot of questions. It’s a natural part of growing up. So when my daughter, an only child, started asking about a sibling, I wasn’t surprised. The tricky part can be knowing what to say when your only child wants a sibling.
It started when my daughter was around the age of three. We would go on play-dates and she started noticing that almost all of her friends had a sibling. But why didn’t she?
Naturally, she started asking, “Mom, can I have a brother or sister?” Such an innocent and understandable question, but one that was oh so hard for me to answer. Especially in a way a child could understand.
In the beginning, my reply was simply that she was all her dad and I needed and that God had a different plan for our family. She accepted that answer…thankfully.
But as she’s gotten older, her occasional questions have started becoming more frequent and even started to change.
Now she asks WHY she doesn’t have a brother or sister. Not so easy to answer. The answer is different for every family. For me, it wasn’t a matter of not wanting a bigger family. It came down to not being able to have a big family.
Becoming a mom was not something that came easily for me. It took some time. Ten years to be exact. Dealing with infertility is a roller-coaster. There are ups and downs. Things can move lightning fast and then come to a screeching halt. But we persevered and in 2009 my husband and I welcomed an amazing, healthy baby girl. We were on cloud nine!
Now here we are 7 years later, and every day I look at my daughter, thankful that I have been able to experience what it means to be a mom. I am truly blessed.
Bedtime is one of our favorite times together. After reading and bedtime prayers, we lay in the dark for a few minutes to snuggle and talk a bit. I think something about the darkness helps her open up and we usually end of having some of our best talks.
The other night, as we were laying in bed, her sibling questions started again. She had just spent the day with a friend and her sister and that was fresh in her mind. But this time, one of her questions knocked the wind out of me…she asked, “But Mommy, why was that God’s plan?”. My heart sank. I wasn’t ready for that one.
I was quiet for a few seconds. This wasn’t necessarily the best bedtime conversation topic. I didn’t want to dismiss her question, so I hugged her tight and spoke from my heart.
I told her that I didn’t know exactly why but that I believed in my heart, God’s plan was for her dad and me to focus all of our love and attention on her.
We laid there for a while longer and talked about how families are not made up of a certain number of people, and that what makes a family is the love and the time they spend together. This seemed to calm her mind and she drifted off to sleep.
Now, will this be the last time we have this conversation? Probably not. Will my daughter’s questions about not having a sibling continue to evolve? Most definitely.
Anyone faced with having this conversation with their child certainly handles it in different ways. This is what works for our family. One day, she will know the full story of how our family came to be and why we are a cozy family of three. But until then, I remember these five things to help us along the way:
- Just Listen. I have realized that we don’t always have to have the perfect thing to say. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen and let our child speak about what is on their mind and in their heart.
- Acknowledge Her Feelings. It’s so important to recognize your child’s feelings and not to minimize them. I don’t ever want my daughter to hesitate talking to me because she believes I think her feelings are unacceptable or silly. I want her to know she can come to me with anything, big or small, and we will learn how to handle these emotions together.
- Make Her Feel Important. I remind her how important she is to us. I try and tell her again and again that she is a blessing and that Mommy and Daddy prayed for a long, long time for her to be our daughter and that our relationship is special and unique because she doesn’t have to share us with anyone.
- Foster Close Friendships. Friendships are important for every child but I believe that close friendships are extra important for an only child. They can help fill a special place in their heart. Although I am not an only child, I am lucky to have a friend since birth who is definitely a sister to me. It’s a relationship I treasure. So as my daughter grows up, I will continue to encourage her close friendships because I strongly believe that family isn’t always blood.
- When She’s Old Enough, We Will Tell The Story. The time will come when I will be able to sincerely answer her question. It won’t be for a while, but when that time comes, I will be honest with her; honest about my journey to motherhood, honest about my feelings, and honest about how I wouldn’t change any of it because it lead us to her!
Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says
For me, having only one wasn’t an option. If I couldn’t have had more than one, I wouldn’t have had any.
Some people can’t predict the future like that.
Jessica Harlow says
Every family is totally different and I really do love that you are encouraging her with the awareness that not all family is “blood related”. I have 4 kiddos and was 1 of 4, so there have always been enough sibling to go around. I can see the ups and downs of having one child and of having several!
Definitely pluses and minuses to both is right. LOL…and I’m sure if my daughter was one of many she would be asking…:why can’t I be an only child?” LOL…it’s always something:)
Helene Cohen Bludman says
Some of the people I know who grew up as only children actually liked it. If your daughter has a close cousin or friend, that person might be a substitute sibling.
Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy says
I guess this is not an easy situation…especially if you wanted more children. Letting her know she is very special may help, but as she gets older she will understand.
Thanks Gloria. I know she will. I get the benefit of knowing all the details of the answer and grew to be very comfortable with it in time. I know she will eventually too:)
Heather Lawrence says
There are 9 years between my first and my second and I remember wanting to give her a sibling so badly but it just wasn’t happening! Now we have 4 and the youngest wants to be a big sister. Unfortunately for her, we are done…perhaps she can have a puppy. LOL!
Yes! A puppy. I can say that getting a dog was one of the best things we could have done for our daughter. They are joined at the hip!
Alicia Taylor says
Family isn’t always blood.. I love that – and it’s something I have taught my own kids – so that they learn friendships can be tight bonds and friends can be brothers. I know it must be a terribly painful question to have to answer for her, especially if the desire is there. However, I think you are doing great and fostering those wonderful conversation with her really makes that bond she has with you grow
laura londergan says
oh girl I feel you. I was only able to have one daughter (which I was told would never happen) before I had to have a full hysterectomy because they thought I had cancer a couple years ago, so I know. The questions, the why’s . . . it’s so hard because inside we are screaming ‘trust me I wish I could give you that sibling’ but we just have to explain that God is in charge & whatever His decision was just that & eventually we will know but for now it’s just us three. 😉 My daughter is 12 so I just tell her straight up now but before I did what you did.
Mama to 5 BLessings says
Hugs to your little one, I can relate. I was the only child. Till this day at 42 years old I would have done anything to have had a sibling.
Such a difficult minefield and totally different emotions for you and her. I had my first easily (thankfully) but endured years of that question WHILST riding the IVF rollercoaster. Everytime DD asked it was difficult but particularly so when a round had just failed. I feel so blessed and lucky that we had DS from our 2nd last egg but with a 7 year gap we had also come to terms with the idea of DD being an only child. I hear you and applaud your willingness to have those difficult conversations. She will love you for it all the more when she’s old enough to really understand.
Thank you so much Katie! And you’re right. Nothing about IVF is easy. It sounds like you have a beautiful family!
Claudia Krusch says
My son is an only child, I had a hysterectomy when he was born, the always talk about not having a sibling and how lonely he feels. I’ve tried since he was little to compensate for that…..not sure if I succeeded! He has friends now and he is well adjusted but it was sad when he was little! Hugs to you!!!
What a sweet way to talk to her about a sensitive subject. I think acknowledging them in this topic instead of dismissing them is so important.
thank you for this!! I am an only child myself and now my son will be an only child. I had complications during delivery and now I am unable to have more children. I have struggled with this because I knew what it was like to grow up as an only child. My son is now at the age where he says he wants a sibling, not quite old enough to ask the why he doesn’t though. I absolutely hated growing up as an only child but now being older, a mother, and a military wife, I actually enjoy certain aspects of it! Sure, it’s lonely and sad to hear about friends talk about siblings and their relationship, but family and siblings aren’t always blood!
Thank you for reaching out Anberlin. It isn’t an easy situation to deal with and everyone handles a topic like this differently. I believe that only the Mom and Dad know what’s best for their situation and their family. I was able to come to peace awhile ago about having one child. It’s just when I think about my daughter missing out on a sibling relationship, especially later in her life, that I pause and reflect about it all. You’ll know in your heart the best way to handle the topic with your son…the best way for your family!
This is great timing, not for the questions my son is asking – it doesn’t seem to be a thing for him at the moment – but for me, your daughter is asking the very question I am asking – but why is that God’s plan – I am older, but have no more answers, even when I want them.
My son is going to be 9 but has been asking for a sibling since quite some time. He gets upset and says all his friends have siblings. My husband had additional financial responsibilities of his brothers and we couldn’t have another child because I had to work to maintain the financial balance. I have explained all these things to him amongst other things. But I understand it can be am emotional thing for him. It breaks my heart to think he will have to live with it and it really depresses me. This is probably going to be a forever battle. Maybe he will just stop asking but it won’t take away how he feels about being the only child!
Thanks for sharing that Aneesha. I totally get it. It is an emotional situation. One that is different for every family. I am very respectful of that. I will share that now, almost 2 years after writing that post, my daughter is in a much better place with it all. Not saying that she doesn’t still, at times, wish she had a brother or sister, but she understands our family situation now. It’s a hard thing for kids to understand; especially at a young age. My daughter doesn’t know the dirty details, but now understands that it took me 10 years to get pregnant and for us, that was the journey. She realizes that we are a happy, blessed family of 3 (plus 2 fur babies), and we just focus on our family and great friends. I tell her all the time that family doesn’t have to be related by blood. My very best friend is like a sister to me. Just keep listening and filling your days with hugs, laughter and making memories.
Dawn Pabers says
Thank you for your post. We have a 7 year old daughter who is going through this same thing. She wants siblings but we were told we wouldn’t even be able to have her. She was a miracle. And after we had her, we couldn’t see spending so much money for just a “chance” at having a second one. We felt that it would be a disservice to her future needs. That said, while my husband and I have slowly made peace with the idea of only one child, she is just starting to really pine for a brother or sister. We always tell her that she is a blessing and that we are perfectly happy that God gave us her. God has a plan for our family of 3. And normally she is a happy child with lots of friends and family members that love her. She is very close to a few friends and also very close to her cousins. . I appreciate the advice on navigating this tricky subject. In her pain, it always brings a sense of guilt out in me because we were always planning on 2 kids…God just had other plans.