I am an only child. When I reveal this, people always say, “But you don’t ACT like an only child!” I’m still not quite sure what that means.
I never thought it was so horrible to be an only child. I liked it that my parents brought me to lots of “adult” places and that I got to talk about grown-up things. I would go to friends’ houses and play with their siblings, and when I was ready, I could go home. As the only grandkid on both sides and with no cousins, I never knew holidays with houses full of children of all ages to play with. Since I didn’t know any different, I didn’t secretly pine away for a different existence.
My husband and I talked about having two kids, but it didn’t work out that way. The newborn stage is hard on most people, but I really struggled. I didn’t think I could do it again, particularly having another child to care for. It works for many people, just not me. My husband and I talked about it, and decided to stop at one.
After a while, my mama friends started talking about having more children, and we adopted a black Lab. We told our son this was his dog brother, and he was completely on board. To this day, he has not asked about a brother or sister, and when we have asked him, he says he likes our family the way it is (well, perhaps he would prefer more pets, but that’s another post). Our families stopped asking, and we put all the baby things on Craigslist or passed them on to the new baby brothers and sisters of my son’s friends.
I wondered if seeing babies would make me want to have another. Turns out, it didn’t. I enjoyed the freedom of knowing I didn’t have to go through the hardships of those early months again, and was happy to be able to make meals or help out my friends who were battling through days with only a few hours of sleep and, in some cases, questioning their decisions.
I was surprised at how few other only children we came across. At first, it seemed like a secret club — people seem to just expect you’ll have more than one child, or if you don’t, that maybe there is a physical reason you can’t, so they don’t want to pry. I kept wondering if there was some handshake I was not privy to in order to gain entrance into this society. But slowly, I realized I wasn’t the only one.
I felt like I was coming out of the closet. There was nothing to be ashamed of, of course. I could tell some of my friends didn’t understand…”but you are so good with kids!?” I think to my son’s last tantrum and how I immediately felt that this was all I could handle.
As I am wont to do, I decided that I needed to read up on parenting an only child. I found the dad of my best friend in high school, Carl Pickhardt, wrote a book called The Future of Your Only Child: How to Guide Your Child to a Happy and Successful Life. The book certainly served as a mirror to illuminate some of my traits and foibles and gave me food for thought on how as a parent you can moderate some of the less positive characteristics of only children.
Now that my son is getting older, I daydream about the future, thinking about all of the amazing experiences we’ll have together as a family. Thinking about my future and all the possibilities that await as my son enters elementary school. Sure, there will be tough stretches. There will be cloudy days. But, I’m content knowing my family is complete and we’ll face it all together.
Written by: Nicole Basham