Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The idea of being done

There's a family I spent time recently that has 3 children. The youngest child who is 13 has had a big problem with controlling his temper since about age 2.

On one hand, I have to stop to realize the brunt of teasing he has endured as the baby with two older brothers, but also as the baby of the entire extended family among his cousins.

But on the other, his behavior is a little extreme. When we were together recently, I saw a different side of this kid as I saw him interacting with baby Shiloh; playing, being gentle, trying to understand how to comfort her or make her smile. His awkward hold of her, which looked like he needed at least 7 more arms to hold her steady (Yes, inwardly I was nervous but I realized it's this sort of interaction that's exactly what he needs), did not restrain the beaming smile on his face that he was bringing joy to a baby. I have never, ever, seen this boy calm himself in this way, speak so softly, and try to meet the need of another.

See, "difficult" children are often the prime reason why many parents stop having children. I can't even count how many parents I've heard say "Oh... If Johnny had been our first we would never have had more." And "Oh we're done. Johnny is it. I'm not risking that again."

But I would like to present the idea that younger siblings are exactly what "difficult" kids need. As the oldest of 5 girls, I can tell you there is a patience and a diligence required in the responsibilities of being an older sibling. It doesn't matter if you're the oldest or just older than another, you are required to have a thoughtful attitude, gentle demeanor, and responsibility that prepare you for relationships throughout life. I would say that "difficult" children need the experience of caring for younger siblings even more than others!

I walked away from spending time with that family wondering what the character and behavior of that boy would have looked like had they not decided "Are you kidding? We're not doing this again!"

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think you're right on target. I'm the oldst of four so we have some in common, I think. =) Although, eventually, SOMEone has to be the baby. It kind of hurts me when the parents are so vocal about why they decided not to have any more kids, espcially if the kid hears/knows. That has to be a blow to their heart. I know someone who got pregnant unexpectedly (her third) and REALLY did not want another child. It made me wonder how much her older two picked up on it and how much they might tell their youngest sibling in the future about how Mommy didn't want her at first. *sigh*

Jenn said...

I agree about younger sibilings being a blessing. I also don't like to hear parents blaming their decision not to have any more children on a "difficult" child.

However, I do think that some people should not have as many children as they do. A child with special needs requires extra time and patience and some parents just don't have that (not saying that the people you wrote about are that way). My heart breaks for the children of a certain family. The children are neglected, their parents are self-centered and they just keep having more.

I think what is best is that each husband and wife should pray for guidance from the Lord. Then with that guidance decide how many children the Lord desires for them to have. God knows what is best for each family. Only he knows how many children the parents can care for and love properly.

Carole said...

Obviously it's a very personal decision for each family make. I think what you're getting at, though, is the accepted "norm" of stopping as soon as you birth one "difficult" child. I do think that is too bad. Perhaps if it wasn't the expected thing to do, perhaps if people were hopeful that you'd be able to have a few more, then perhaps there'd be the support and encouragement those families needed to make that difficult choice.

On another note, it's really amazing how people assume that adding another little one to the family will cause terrible jealousy from the older siblings! My boys adore babies and have not shown any animosity towards the newest addition - only the sweetest BOY tenderness and affection. :)
So I think that expectations here are culturally skewed as well.

Kristin said...

I just don't like the term "done" no matter what the circumstance. Who am I to say what the Lord wants for my family, you know?

Rissa said...

I have to agree with the above comment. I can't even imagine saying we're done. How can I trust myself to decide something like that?

I could go on, but I won't! This is a good post - very thought-provoking. :)