At 5:30 this morning, my big brother sent me a text: a link to a New York Times op-ed piece called “The Gift of Siblings” by Frank Bruni. The timing (of the piece coming to my attention, not the early hour) was impeccable, as it contained all the words I’d been fumbling for the night before when I was asked if I thought “things” would be easier if Coraline had a sibling. The obvious answer was no: being a single parent of two small children is certainly twice as overwhelming financially and logistically. But would I prefer Coraline had a sibling? Absolutely. “They’re less tailored fits than friends are. But in a family that’s succeeded at closeness, they’re more natural, better harbors,” says Bruni. While Coraline gets 100 percent of my attention and resources, I imagine a sibling — older or younger — could offer a sense of continuity and comfort that I cannot, especially in our particular situation. I want her to have a harbor.
Clearly a sibling for Coraline is out of the question, so when the only-child-versus-siblings topic comes up among those who know I’m no longer with Coraline’s father, people almost reflexively start listing all the reasons why having an only child is great. Which is kind. And with many of them I cannot argue. But as someone who has the gift of siblings, I just can’t embrace the only-child thing. Of his siblings, Bruni says “We’d been graced: with a center of gravity; with an audience that never averts its gaze and doesn’t stint on applause.” He points out that your siblings are the only people to know you intimately throughout the entire arc of your life. In a world where connection seems more and more difficult, it’s certainly a gift to have someone to whom you are tied by blood and beginnings, for better or worse.
So, would it be easier? Probably not. But better for Coraline? In the long run, I suspect so.