Thursday, January 22, 2015

One, Done and Full of Fun

I had someone in my store yesterday tell me all about how having an only child is a mistake. Again. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me something like that or the litany of other things they think (negatively) about having one child, I wouldn't ever need to play the lottery. I'd be swimming in money. It always goes the same way. Customer sweetly asks if I have any children. I tell them I have one. They ask how old. I tell them he is in kindergarten. They ask when I'm going to have more. I tell them I'm not...They tell me how I'm wrong. Every way I'm wrong.

I used to get really annoyed. Ok, sometimes I still get annoyed. Not even for me. But for my friends who can't even make that choice. Some don't have the choice to even have one. Some have one but haven't been given the choice to have more than one. For numerous reasons and circumstances. I don't know why it has to be spelled out, but having more children isn't always a choice. I have friends who do have one, and had that one "naturally", meaning with no medical intervention. Yet now, they have what's called secondary infertility. Or they've developed some kind of medical problem where they have numerous miscarriages or other chromosomal issues that could cause dire circumstances for them and/or their fetuses. So simply stating an opinion, uninformed, about someone's personal circumstances, as to strong feelings that someone else should procreate more, is not only asinine, but can be very hurtful to someone who wants more children very much. I just wanted to put that out there, even though that has nothing to do with me and my reasons for having an only.

When I was in my early twenties, I just assumed I'd be like my mother and have three. I don't know why I thought this. I just did. Then, as I got older, my life totally changed from what I thought it would be, my timeline changed, and so did my feelings on children. I became way more self-aware and I really grew up. I thought about what it means to be a parent, to me. I also know my strengths and weaknesses. In my process, I decided that when becoming a parent would become a reality, I only wanted one.

Believe it or not, I'm not here to do the usual. I'm not going to go into why I think one is the best. I want to talk about how it's no one's business why you want one or five. Out loud. You can THINK whatever you want. Hey- when someone tells me they're pregnant after their first- I think a whole bunch of things. Like, "why?", or "I'm sorry". Not because I don't like being a mom. I think those things because *I* personally couldn't imagine wanting another child. But I don't SAY those things. Unless in the context of a conversation that usually started with someone telling me I should have another. Or, if I'm specifically asked what I think from a specific person, wanting an opinion as to whether THEY should have another kid. Otherwise, I keep my thoughts on procreation to myself. It doesn't affect me. I can have plenty of opinions on stuff that doesn't affect me. I sit on message boards all day and night giving opinions on stuff that doesn't affect me. That's because people put stuff out there to be opined on. That's *why* they're on there.

It's been said that fat shaming is the last socially acceptable prejudice. I disagree. I think only-child-shaming is another. It seems to be ok to tell someone that having one is wrong, they're going to be weird or self-centered, or mean. Yet, I feel like if I told someone they should've had less children, which I can't say I haven't thought of some people, I would be able to hear pin drop in the horrified silence. This double standard is mystifying and irritating to me. I've thought about just making sad eyes, implying that I can't have more, but I don't want to have to do that. I just want my choice to be ok. It's ok to me, so why can't it be ok to you, who has no stake in my parenting whatsoever?

The woman who went into her whole monologue yesterday about only children had specific reasons, unique to her, as to why she believes only children are a bad idea. She has a son, she doesn't like her daughter in law, and her son and his family live hours away in another state. She didn't plan for this and didn't want it to be this way. But that's HER stuff. Not mine. Delving further- her husband told me their son was a great kid and is now a doctor. Because they only had one they were able to pay for private school growing up and his college and medical school with no loans to either them or their son. Basically, everything was fine until he got together with his wife. I think she has regrets that maybe if she had a daughter, things would be different. Or if there was another child, one of them would've stayed with her. She would've had another chance. She's a "what if"-er. Yet, there are no guarantees with anything. Or anyone. More kids wouldn't have guaranteed her happiness. Or children around in her older age. And it certainly has no bearing on me having more kids or whether B and I will have this problem with our only child.

I just don't know why it's ok to want more kids, but it's not ok to want less in this society. Everyone's situation is unique to them. One person's nightmare only child story can be countered with someone else's awesome experience. So far, we're having an awesome experience.

I can't tell you why to have one or more. What I can tell you, on the almost "eve" of my son turning six, is that I feel like I won the lottery of children. I can't say he's perfect, that he's Harvard bound, or that there aren't moments I can't wait to drop him at school. I can say that I feel lucky to be his mom and I feel like I got the best of all worlds in my kid.

I don't know what it's like to have more than one child. Though, the one I have is what I feel encompasses everything that could be the yin and yang of more. I think of him as a jack of all trades (master of some?). Making sure he has the out-of-the-box experiences that keep him well-rounded makes me feel like I get to "have it all". To me, it's the same as if I had multiple children with different interests. I also don't know any other way. I feel lucky that I have a child that wakes up happy, literally laughing and smiling, every single day. Always has. That when I wake him up from a deep sleep to get ready to go to school, I tickle him awake, he just laughs and gets up. There is no scowling and telling me to leave him alone. He doesn't give me a hard time about his clothes or where he's going. He's never declined to go somewhere or been apprehensive about having a new experience. I'm never saying, "I wish I had a kid who................". Ok, well, that's not exactly true. I do wish I had a kid who eats. But that's another story altogether. The bottom line is that I can't complain. I have a happy, well-adjusted kid. He's empathetic, sympathetic, and a really good person. He radiates warmth and pure joy. He has a great sense of humor and amazing comedic timing. He has a maturity I didn't know was possible at his age. He's awesome, he's mine, and I'm cool with just having one pretty terrific kid.

I don't know what it's like to want more kids. I don't have to know though. I'm not having any more kids. Even if I end up hating my daughter in law, I'm still not going to wish I had more kids. I am one hundred percent confident in my choices. I feel no guilt at all for not giving my kid a sibling. Families come in all forms and sizes. That's just the end of the story right there. No apologies.

You have to be confident in your choices. You can't need to be validated in choices by other people. Sometimes I think people feel like they need to tell you what they think about this just to feel validated in their own. I've never told someone to just have another. Because I don't care if they do or if they don't. Not because I don't care about them, but because they're babies who turn into people. Not kittens. Babies who turn into people who are ALL different. I don't know how someone else will handle being a parent of more than one. I don't know how anyone could feel comfortable in seriously telling someone else to have more. Unless they plan on being involved monetarily, emotionally, physically, etc. If you don't live in someone's house with them, you shouldn't be that invested in their procreation. Just because you hated being an only child doesn't mean someone else will too.

I feel like we are who we are. Some things are just in our nature. We can see it in kids every day in the same family. Why does one kid wake up smiling every day since birth and other wake up crying and angry? That's just their personality. Maybe someone is shy, introverted, odd, just because that's who they are. Maybe being an only didn't help but maybe it didn't have any bearing on those traits at all. I do believe you can pull out or temper good and bad traits in any kid, regardless of whether or not there are siblings. You may just have to work harder on some traits more than others in either scenario but I don't know that anyone could say the definitively that having one or more than one is better than the other. I only know and care what's good for me. And that's all anyone should care about. Because there are no guarantees and no Magic 8 Ball that can predict how life will go. There certainly is no way to tell what will work for anyone else besides you.

Next time you're tempted to tell someone, unsolicited, how many kids to have, to just have another, or tell someone why their situation isn't ideal, take a moment to think- "Do I really care?", "Is my opinion going to change their situation?", "Do they really need to know what I think about only children vs multiple children?" Lastly- keep in mind that you could ruin someone's day with just that advice or statement when they want but they CAN'T.

Just remember that no matter the number of kids someone has, or doesn't have, there is a reason, or multiple reasons. If it's not the number you'd choose, just be glad you aren't them and confident in your own choices.

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