If you don’t know me, know that we have one child. If you do know me, then you know that’s how it will stay.
This is a choice. Not something thrust upon us unwillingly due to unforeseen issues. I got pregnant in a month (can you say honeymoon baby?), had a great pregnancy (not nauseous more than once, but did gain 70 lbs.), a great birth (OK, 17 hours is a tad long, but it was complication-free). We have an amazingly well-behaved, brilliant daughter (her teenage years will bite us in the ass, mark my words), and if we wanted to, we could afford another child. But as I said, we have made our choice. As my husband likes to say, “We like our family the way it is.”
I was thrilled to read last week’s cover story of Time magazine, debunking myths and misgivings associated with having an only child. As this is becoming a more popular U.S. familial future (larger broods are certainly not passé, as I have several friends with two-plus beautiful kids), it was nice to see it finally get a little positive air time. In my experience, it has almost seemed like the parents of the only child are the “bastard stepchildren” of baby-making couples…acknowledged but then talked about behind their backs–how selfish they are, robbing their child of a sibling; how their only child will be spoiled, blah, blah, blah. Let’s face it, at least someone who has decided to have no children isn’t damaging a child the way we are by only having one. Quel parenting nightmare, my husband and me.
Now that recent sociological studies have shown actual positive notions behind being an only child (gasp!), maybe now the Stop & Shop bagger, the passenger next to me, the friend of my friend, the shoe store saleswoman will stop judging me, will stop belittling me, will stop telling me, “Oh, just you wait, you’ll have another one.” No, I won’t.
And who are we kidding, no they won’t. But I really don’t care. Just as I don’t care if you have chosen to have no children. Or you have chosen to have 12 children. “Care” isn’t the right word…More like I respect your decision because it’s just that…your decision. It’s not my business.
Truth be told, from this mom’s vantage point, I don’t think that my daughter’s being an only child is a disease that will cause her to be a permanent misfit or an oddball (no thanks, Granville Stanley Hall). I’m assuming she won’t be overprivileged, asocial, royally autonomous…self-centered, aloof and overly intellectual (whatever, Judith Blake). Or lonelyselfishmaladjusted. Sure, she might be indulged and highly protected, but what child shouldn’t be on some level?
The point is this: I love my child. If I had five, I would love my childREN. There are pros/cons to having one or having 5. But no matter how many you have, it’s your job to help them be amazing people–whether they have sisters and brothers, or a puppy and tons of friends. Just love them. Keep them safe. Give them some things, but not every thing. Teach them to work for what they want, but understand they might not get it. Let them experience happiness and sadness (tears of joy look the same as tears of heartache, and they are both profound). Every child is their own little person. Treat them as such.
It’s a conversation I have most weeks — if not most days. This time, it happens when my 2-year-old daughter and I are buying milk at the supermarket. The cashiers fawn over her pink cheeks and applaud when she twirls for them, and then I endure the usual dialogue.
“Another one coming soon?”
“Nope — it might be just this one.”
“You’ll have more. You’ll see.”
“At the moment, I’m not planning on it.”
“You wouldn’t do that to your child. You’ll see.” Read more…
What do you think of the only-child topic, from myths to recent research to your own experiences? Tell me about your family. What was your reasoning behind your chosen number of kids?