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It was time for me to put up my feet and get some rest. I just wanted to relax, watch television, and think about nothing but the perpetual sound of my son’s table tennis ball hitting every inch of my bedroom wall, made me lose my cool. I warned him not to play in the bedroom and that if he continues he would be deprived of his favorite gadget for a week. He immediately stepped out of the bedroom and started playing in the living room instead.
This made me more stressed as I feared he might break the artifacts and the decorative show pieces in our living room. I had completely lost it by now. I wondered why can’t I get my share of ‘me time’? why is my son not listening to me? why does he fail to understand that I sometimes don’t want those constant noises hitting my head?
Irritated, I got up and picked up his gadget to make him realize his mistake. He immediately dropped the table tennis bat. His eyes staring at me in disbelief welled up in tears. He said ''what am I supposed to do when I have no one to play with? Neither you nor baba plays with me, you both are always occupied with your work. I am just alone…"
His words rendered me speechless. I was suddenly engulfed with guilt and found myself feeling very helpless. Immediately a thought crossed my mind… ‘Have we robbed him off the joy of having a sibling?’ Another thought that hammered in my head was the possibility of him sharing his happiness with his brother/sister was now impractical.
All day his words echoed loudly in my head, making me wonder whether we have failed as parents!
A series of questions clouded my thoughts.
Did we failed to provide him the conducive environment during his growing up years depriving him of the joy of having a sibling at home? Were we selfish or just wrong in thinking that having just one child is the most sensible thing for our family considering the amount of time, effort and resources required in raising a child? Maybe we were more focused in fulfilling our dreams and aspirations. I must confess, it saved us from going through the entire nerve wracking process of raising another child but at the same time we barred him from experiencing the sheer joy of having a friend around.
The entire journey of being a parent was so stressful that we didn’t even think of having another child for some years after my son was born. Since we wanted to give the best to him in terms of time, education etc. it held us back from the thought of being a parent the second time.
How quickly we assumed that he’ll be happy to get exclusive attention and love from everyone at home. Yes, he was happy during his early years but the happiness was momentary because when he started school and met other kids who had siblings, he started feeling lonely and his yearning for a brother/sister got further reinforced.
I felt my son’s loneliness was weakening him softly. I remember an incident when one day he came back from school feeling really upset. He complained about how one of his senior pushed him and threw his bag aside to get a seat in the school bus, on their way back home.
He cried and cried, not because he had to travel back home standing in the bus but because he thought that if he had an elder brother/sister, he would have been saved from the bully. The lacunae of not having a sibling will always remain in his heart and we as parents feel responsible for it.
Many of us are so absorbed in our own world of responsibilities, career, and aspirations, that we sometimes overlook the importance of a sibling relationship. What holds us back is the greed. Greed to achieve more, greed to enjoy life more and the greed to add wings to our career. We carefully strategize and wait for the ‘right time’ to consider having kids. Some feel naturally complete with one child and others succumb to the pressure of a nuclear family and the absence of a support system. There are endless reasons, some are genuine and some are just excuses.
I am sure even my parents had their own set of reasoning and constraints but they provided me the right kind of environment to grow up. Having a sibling opened an entirely new world of happiness, learning and togetherness. Though we sometimes drove each other bonkers and had our own share of sibling arguments, we learnt what sharing is, we enjoyed going to school together, we learnt to equip ourselves to resolve problems and most importantly, we now know we have someone our own to lean on when times get tough. Yes, we are geographically scattered today but just the thought of having someone our own to share our triumphs and defeats, and someone to grow old with, makes us feel so fortunate and blessed. Sibling relationship is indeed the most enduring relationship in our lives.
After mulling over these thoughts, I called my son, hugged him, and told him to reconcile with the fact that he is a single child and many would envy to be in his position. He smiled back after listening to my lecture on the advantages of being a single child and went back to play. Everything seemed normal. As I thought that life is back on track, my son came running back to me and said, “Can I have a pocket dog instead?”