They don’t know what they’re missing

When we planned to have children, my husband, Orvin, wanted just one. I negotiated for two.
We come from very different households. I was an only child for almost nine years and looked forward to weekends at Guama’s (maternal grandmother) house because my cousins would be there. There were fights, but I don’t remember any of them. I remember giggling and playing and screaming and running, and fighting the neighbor’s kids with the Ang clan ganging up on them.
When I finally got a baby brother, our ages were so far apart that by the time he was ready to play I had outgrown playing. I also did not like playing with robots, guns and swords like he did. With our father dying a year after he was born, I ended up being more of a yaya than an achi.
Husband said, an only child would not know what they’re missing anyway. If you have never had anyone to play with, nor fight with, then you would not know what that meant. Life could be quite breezy. Plus, an only child would get the parents’ undivided attention and they would not be required to share anything.
My argument was that I did not want any child of mine to feel as lonely as I did, with no one to play with. I knew what I was missing because my classmates had siblings. At my elementary school, no one was allowed to stay in the classroom for lunch. There were spaces for rent at the gym, and the siblings all grouped together to eat.
My cousin and his cousins’ yaya brought lunch for them every day. My Sa-yi (third aunt) included me in the lunch count and so I had “family” to eat with. That made lunch more bearable.
And so, we have two girls very close in age. I dreamed they would grow up loving and caring and watching out for each other.
Fantasies are easy. Reality is not. It did not really turn out to be as I expected. Our two girls do love and care and watch out for each other. They have common interests that hold their attention at the same time. They laugh a lot. Both are a joy to be with.
But they also have quite opposite personalities and so lead their own lives for most of the week. I stopped refereeing them when they were five and three. When they start arguing and screaming at each other, I send them out of my hearing and wait for them to resolve it.
They’re quite good at that now. I now sometimes notice that they walk away from each other in a snit and are done with their fight within 10 minutes. I guess they realize that nothing is worth a long drawn out tiff.
Husband also has a trying time dealing with two girls. He is the eldest of five and is now considered the “boss” of his family. He listens very well, and considers all their opinions.
With just two girls though, it is hard to find a compromise. In their younger years, it was always a she-said-she-said argument. It was very tiring to listen to that because they rehash argument after argument and could really not find compromises. It took Tatay a while before he learned to walk away and let them compromise on their own.
On our recent trip abroad, the girls could choose Science Centre Singapore or the National Museum of Singapore, but not both because of the distance. They are older now and could weigh the merits of both.
We went to the Science Centre because Shobe was not interested in the museum, but both wanted the Science Centre.
Tatay says it seemed easier to negotiate with more siblings. There definitely are similar or parallel personalities. It is like playing “the boat is sinking, group yourselves according to … .” No one gets left out. Because there are five of them, he was often the tie-breaker. He was the eldest kuya after all, and they invariably listened to him.
There is always someone available to accompany you wherever, and game to do whatever. When voting time comes for an activity, there will always be a group discussion/argument rather than a one-on-one fight.
Because it is always majority wins, there is no resentment toward the parents – only to the siblings who got their way.
His siblings tell me that among all of them, my husband was the most different. He watched videotaped shows, played the guitar or read books. He did not play basketball, nor other sports.
The younger siblings often had visitors over, my husband never did. We dated for eight years before we got married, and I visited his house only three times!
The first visit was as classmates and we needed to watch a documentary for a project. When his mother arrived home and saw a girl’s slippers at the bottom of the stairs, she started grilling their helper. “Sino kasama ni Jojo? (Who is Jojo with?)”
Helper said the girl was Orvin’s classmate, not Jojo’s (my husband’s first younger brother). As soon as his mom heard that, she prepared snacks for us instead.
With the two girls, not only are they both strong-willed and hard-headed sometimes, they are quite opposite in the way they make decisions. Achi thinks things through slowly. Shobe goes with her gut feel and gets impatient. They end up fighting and I recently noticed Achi giving way a lot of times. She loves her shobe and wants the best for them both.
Achi thinks that she does not lose out when she does not get her way because she has a lot of other things on her plate anyway: books, art, dancing, coding. Meanwhile, because Shobe is so outgoing, her choices are limited to outdoor activities or at least out-of-the-house activities – something both Tatay and I dread as well. We go out of our ways to accommodate Shobe’s desire to go out so she gets a win for the week.
At the end of the day though, I think it will boil down to how much independence are given the children. One, two or multiples if the parent rears them to be their own people with their own minds, then parents like me “graduate” earlier.