I am an only, adopted child. I knew one day I’d have children, but if pressed, I wasn’t sure when. If you asked my parents, they would’ve said, “Michelle just isn’t going down that road.”
I thought we’d have one child, maybe two? I didn’t know if I could even bear the thought of two.
I knew nothing about having siblings. How do you handle fights or the competition? I wasn’t sure how many souls would fill our family.
But the best gift I ever gave my daughter was her little brother.
Riley was born exactly two and a half years after Avery. His name was supposed to be Nalu, but he didn’t look like a Hawaiian wave. We hemmed and hawed and finally decided on Riley. It was the moment when we left the hospital that I turned to my husband and said, “It’s a unisex name just like Avery, and ends in a Y. We just named our children the same name!”
We brought Riley home and I found I could do this two-child thing. The first time he cried, sheer pain and torture crossed Avery’s little face. Her little heart was sad and she didn’t know what to do. She looked at me with a trembling lip. At that moment, I felt Avery would always protect Riley with her whole heart.
Avery and Riley are the male and female counterparts of each other and the yin and yang of personalities. They look and sound exactly alike. They are both loveable and loud with big chubby cheeks. Quick to say “I love you,” or to scream their opinion from the roof top.
Avery was a calm baby that looked as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, while Riley came out smiling and slapping high fives to all of the nurses. I see them learn from each other every day. Avery is quick to teach Riley what she’s learning in school and to show him the “right” way to do things. When Riley had the floor recently, he very assertively told his sister that, “she needed to ask like this and say ‘excuse me’ if mommy and daddy are talking.” Avery said she didn’t like Riley telling her what to do. What she didn’t understand was that he was copying her and acting like his hero.
A typical day starts with Riley asking, “Is it time to pick up sissy from school?” This can go on five times a day. Here’s the kicker: from the moment Avery steps back into the car, she and Riley start screaming at one another. They need to be heard, he’s touching this, she just grabbed that. Am I really pulling the car over during a 10 minute ride home?
That’s why I love the weekends. On the weekends, I’m usually granted one day to sleep in. I love listening to their little voices playing an imaginary game of “dog” or “baby.”
I explained to Avery a long time ago that Riley was the best playmate in the world because he would do whatever she wanted. She took this to heart. I hear her offering him princess dresses and high heels or saying, “Riley, let’s pretend…”
I wake to find my little boy dressed in pink from head to toe. We have affectionately named this conversion “Rhonda.” He couldn’t be happier to feed his sister waffle doggie biscuits or pretend to be the dad coming home from work in a pink tutu.
When we had to stop at a supply store the other day, Riley asked to go in with my husband. Avery wanted to go to, but couldn’t get her belt off. I told her to just wait. I watched Riley and my husband start to walk in. Then Riley stopped. He walked back to the car and pulled Avery’s car door open. He wasn’t going to go in without sissy because she wanted to come in too.
Together they skipped, danced, and jolted into the store. I viewed this small action as the epitome of having a sibling. Yes, they drive each other crazy, sometimes the mere thought of being in the same room together is enough to put them over the edge, but nobody will ever love or care for you like your brother or sister.
Our decision three years ago to have a second child was mainly to give Avery a friend. Growing up as an “only” can be very lonely and we wanted them to have each other as playmates. I can see now that they will have each other as soul mates as well.
Michelle Tomlinson is a pastry chef turned blogger at Purely Moms. She uses her passion to make healthy, nutrient-dense foods plus oldie-but-goodie gluten-free recipes. Her hope is for families to realize what “real food” is and to understand that it feeds the body, mind, and spirit.