The other day, I was chatting with a mom friend of mine who has a baby a little younger than my 9-month-old. (We’ll call this baby B… ya know… for “Baby.”) After a lengthy chat about which solids we’re feeding our babies (we’re still doing fruits, veggies, grains, and she’s trying baby led weaning), she gave me an apologetic look and said:
“I think we’ve decided that B is going to be an only child.”
I wasn’t sure how she wanted me to react. It’s up to everyone to decide (with their partner) how many children they would like to have. Sure, sometimes life throws a curve ball with multiples, “accidents,” or fertility issues. So, I was happy that she and her husband came to a consensus together that they wanted baby B to be an only child. But the fact that she was looking at me with almost a disappointed look on her face left me confused.
So, I went with a lighthearted approach and said, “Well, I’m an only child and I don’t think I turned out TOO screwed up.” Her face brightened. She forgot I was an only child. My friend went on to tell me about her concerns that B would be lonely without a brother or sister, but that since there were difficulties with B’s conception, she didn’t know if she could go through it again. B’s mom then asked me the question that I get asked a lot once someone learns that I do not have siblings, “Did you LIKE being an only child?”
My answer is usually the same, “Well, I still am an only child and… I’ve never had it any other way.”
Then, once people learn of my siblinglessness (yeah, let’s pretend it’s a word), they determine that I am an only child expert and the questions come flooding my way, “Will B be lonely? Will he be selfish because he won’t learn to share with siblings? Will he be egotistical because everything will always be about him?”
Ummm sure, maybe…I DON’T KNOW!!! And wait…I’m an only child, so is that what people think of ME??? Is it selfish to think about myself in this situation? Is that precisely the way an only child is expected to act?
Sometimes I wish I were a doctor or had some background in child psychology other than learning about my own baby, or whatever I might remember from my own childhood, in order to properly predict the future of Baby B. Sometimes I wish I were a psychic, but unfortunately, the powers of onlychildness (yeah, still pretending on the word front again) do not grant me those abilities. Will B find a life associated with magic since both David Copperfield and Daniel Radcliffe are only children? Was it being an only child that led Lance Armstrong to become a world famous cyclist? Or did being an only child make him take performance enhancing drugs? Will B be more like Franklin D. Roosevelt or Eleanor Roosevelt? I can’t possibly be expected to tell B’s mom what lies ahead for B, can I? That’s a lot of pressure! And yet, B’s mom is not the first, nor will she be the last, to look to my only child experiences to help her make such a huge decision or to feel better about the one she has made.
Well B’s mom and all the others thinking about being a one child family. For me:
an only child…
…an only child who grew up in a Jewish (observing the holidays but not religious) household on Long Island.
…an only child from NY with a father who was an accountant, who rearranged his schedule to make sure he was home every night for dinner and coached my softball team.
…an only child with a mom who stayed home with me until I was in kindergarten and went back to school to get her masters when I was in 4th grade, and became an English teacher. They both always attended my dance recitals and cello concerts.
…an only child who has two cousins who are “like” sisters. We grew up in the same town, and attended the same schools, with their parents acting as second parents to me.
…an only child from NY with a dad who was an accountant and a mom who was an English teacher, two cousins who are like sisters, two other cousins who I thought of as my babies growing up and think of as my peers now that we’re adults (whose awesome parents have held a myriad of interesting careers and lived all over the country) and two other cousins who I haven’t seen since I was seven, but one of whom I keep in touch with online.
…an only child from NY who has two parents, six first cousins, three sets of aunts and uncles and a grandfather who passed away way before I was born, a grandmother who passed away when I was 7 and another set of grandparents who I saw every Sunday who introduced me to Broadway, the ballet, Disneyworld, Morocco, and passed away just before and just after my wedding, respectively.
…an only child from NY who has two parents, six first cousins, three sets of aunts, two sets of grandparents who have passed away, and a husband (who is Christian) who is the nicest guy I’ve ever met.
…an only child from NY who has two parents, six first cousins, three sets of aunts and uncles, two sets of grandparents who have passed away, a husband who has parents I adore, a sister-in-law who I am proud to call MY sister, (yes, when you break that down, it’s kind of creepy, just go with the sweet part of it, please) not to mention her awesome husband and their adorable kiddies.
…an only child from NY who went to Carnegie Mellon, studied abroad in London, moved to Los Angeles, who has two parents, six first cousins, three sets of aunts and uncles, grandparents who have passed away, in-laws, second cousins, first cousins once removed, supportive friends, friends who have drifted away, friends who I’ve pushed away.
…an only child who has held these titles: daughter, assistant, friend, performer, camp counselor, girlfriend, comedian, ex-girlfriend, babysitter, actress, granddaughter, producer, bunkmate, fiancée, writer, cousin, coordinator, wife, co-worker, daughter-in-law, crazy neighbor, mom, editor, niece, story-teller, aunt and while not technically so, sister.
Did I turn out okay? I dunno. I’m still in the process of “turning out.” But I don’t think the lack of biological siblings surrounding me are the only things that make me, me.