You may have some ideas about only children. Maybe you’ve said or thought or overheard generalizations about them, maybe you believe what you hear. Maybe you have an only child and cannot take one more insinuation that your personal reproductive choices have already put her at a disadvantage. Maybe you are an only child, surprised to find that you’re neither maladjusted nor lonely, wondering whether you’re an anomaly.
I’m not an only child, but I’m raising one. I want to tell you all about her.
My only child is smart, she’s funny, she makes friends easily and loves unabashedly. She has so much empathy that sometimes I worry about her navigating this world. She sits calmly at restaurants and pays attention in class. She thanks the server and misses her teacher on weekends. She snuggles in the morning and sometimes still calls for us at night. She does chores (sometimes) and toasts her own waffles. She makes appetizers for company and gifts for the mailman. She spent her birthday money on necklaces for three best friends. She lives for playdates and shares all of her toys. She congratulates her teammates and the opposing players after a game. She gets ahead of me on her scooter but checks over her shoulder to be sure I’m nearby. She once won an award at school for stopping to help a boy she didn’t know. She does all of this because she’s seven years old, not because she’s an only child.
Sometimes my only child talks back, she clowns in class enough to be disciplined, she gets into arguments with her best friends and can be greedy about sharing my time. Her bedroom is usually a mess and often she will stomp down the hall when asked to clean it. She rails against bath time and vegetables and helmets. She forgets her manners and five minutes of not getting her way can color the rest of a perfect afternoon. She exaggerates bellyaches to get sent home by the school nurse. She cries when she feels left out at recess. She has to be told over and over to brush her teeth or turn off her iPad. She won’t stop trying to diaper the dogs. She has perfected the exasperated teenage eyeroll and constantly interrupts me when I’m working. She does all of this because she’s seven years old, not because she’s an only child.
My only child allows me to be available for my friends and their kids. She’s the reason I can pick up an extra classmate or two after school or foster five puppies for two weeks. Because of my only child I can be flexible with changes of plans and playdates that run long. I pack lunch for an only child in the morning and can cook for the teacher appreciation luncheon that afternoon. I have an only child and can bring along an extra when the “family pack” inevitably consists of four tickets. My calendar is full of one child’s worth of sports and events, leaving our families’ calendars mostly free of recorder concerts. Raising one child allows me enough time to help teach the ten more who show up at my Daisy troop meetings. I do all of this because I love my people, and because I have an only child.
I’ll gladly tell anyone who asks why I only have one: It’s because I planned on having none. I tell them because she is a story of joy I could not have anticipated, because I’m not ashamed to have made choices and then made room for change. We’re a family of three because that’s our decision.
If you must criticize, leave it with me. My only child knows that she is as happy, loved, and capable as any of her friends, and only those who don’t know her would speculate otherwise.
Our family is complete, and we have an only child.
This post originally appeared at Suburban Snapshots.