Thursday, August 16, 2012

One is the Only-est Number

"There is just one life for each of us: our own." -Euripides

Yet again, our almost daily walk with Luna produces another memorable Peanut moment. On one of our routes, we walk by a rose garden that is a focal point of the park that our street dead ends into. Recently, the people who take care of the garden dedicated a new statue to one of its benefactors. It was a particularly hot day, so Luna found a shaded patch of grass near the rose bushes and laid down. I sat on a bench as Peanut played on the statue, a little boy pushing a wheelbarrow. She then put her arm around it, and said, "Look, daddy. He's my little brother."

She had struck a chord. So I asked her, "Are you ok if me and mommy don't have another baby?"

Then, in typical Peanut fashion, she eased my concerns saying, "Daddy, I'm just pretending."

This is a very sensitive subject for us. And while we never say never, for now we're saying we only get one shot at this. I only get one shot at this. At the whole being a dad thing. This is my shot:


So everything I do, every decision I make, every choice is a BFD. Because everything involves Peanut.

My daughter is an ONLY child and will likely be our ONLY child. And I have heard enough of the backhanded, condescending comments in my five-plus years as a dad of ONE child. News alert: Having one child doesn't make me any less of a parent. Maybe it's just paranoia or insecurity, but sometimes I feel unfairly judged or underestimated.

Then I remember actual conversations, like this:
"We've always made Peanut eat what we eat. Luckily, she's a good eater and likes pretty much anything I cook."
(Dismissively) "Yeah. But you ONLY have one. I have to worry about two picky eaters."
That's just one of many exchanges I've had. The mere suggestion that our days, our lives, are somehow easier is insulting. My Director and I don't have it easy. Walk a mile in my shoes. Wake up when I do. Do my job and love my child for the two hours a day I get to love her. Then tell me how insignificant it is. Look, I'm not looking for a pat on the back or for someone to validate me as a dad. The only person who needs to think I'm a good dad as far as I'm concerned is Peanut. Her love and respect is all that matters. But the persistent, underlying judgment we feel as "only-"parents is sometimes exhausting.

I don't love her any less. I don't stress about her any less. I don't play king to her princess with any less gusto just because she's my ONLY child.

Sometimes one is enough. Plenty, in fact.

We have one child by choice, and by circumstance. For the same reasons I am sure other families may have more than one. If you ask me, we are all more than blessed.

And one last thing about the only child herself: If Peanut has a meltdown, shows defiance, or expects or asks for something, it's not because she's an ONLY child. It's because she IS a child. You think her behavior in these cases would be better if she had a sibling? I'd argue they'd be worse. I was in constant competition with my three older siblings for my parents' attention. Still am. You want me to line up the people with siblings who have issues? Where should I begin?

A couple of weeks ago, My Director and I were watching the Olympics. More specifically, we were watching women's swimming. We watched a profile piece on 17 year-old phenom Missy Franklin and her family. She is smart, personable, outgoing, funny, and adorable. Oh, she then went on to win the gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke. (Then three other golds and a bronze, thank you very much.) She is also an only child.

The Golden Only Child (photo from here.)
"See that?" My Director noted with a smile. "Missy Franklin is an only child. She turned out pretty well."

Peanut is also smart, personable, outgoing, funny, and adorable.Yet, sometimes we still feel the need to defend her, to justify her actions and our decisions, to ourselves and others. Well, the justifying stops today.

She probably won't be winning any gold medals in swimming
since she still doesn't like getting her face wet. But I love
her just the same.
We didn't set out to be a one-child family. We just are. That's us. It's who we've become. Possibly for good.  If you ask me, for very good.

For a time, we went back and forth about having a second child, weighing the pros and cons. I wrote about it almost a year ago. You can click here if you want to read it. But our decision to stop at one was not an easy one. Circumstances helped us make that decision. Someday we'll be ready to share that story.

39 comments:

  1. I was an only child for about 8 years before I got my little brother. What irks me is people asking me why in the world its just the two of us. The norm here is a minimum of 3, and people here in Malaysia thinks that the more kids you have, the more blessed you are.

    A man once commented that people with a small number of kids are stingy. T.T I was so close to smacking him right there.

    My years as an only child helped me grow into someone who doesn't need people to do things with. Independent. There's nothing wrong with being an only child.

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    1. You bring up a great issue that I chose not to address in the status of having 3+ children. Thank you for your comment in defense of only child. Independence is something we've been teaching Peanut since she was a baby, before she was officially an only child.

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  2. Parenting is a tough job and you pile that on top of having careers and personal lives. It is tough. Does it make you any less of a parent? or a Dad? or a Mom? NO absolutely not. I have addressed this exact issue on my blog a couple times.

    We are getting grief from my wife's family as to when our next child will be. My answer is always "Never!" Somehow they think I am bitter about having our son. I'm not, I am happy and content with one as I will get to do more things with him and not split my time between two wonderful children and create a divide between them.

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    1. We get family grief too, buddy. Comes with the territory. It's the next question after "When are getting married," "When are you having a baby?" and "When are you getting a house?"

      We have no new news, so we're not interesting. If only those family members who pine for us to have another baby would spend that time and energy with the child we do have.

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    2. I tell my only child son all the time that the reason I chose to not have another was so that he would always have my undivided love. He is my perfect one and I don't want him to have to share me with anyone else. Unfortunately, as an only child, he struggles with independence. Lately, he's been asking for a sibling, but I explain that, with him being 6, the age gap would really never give him a playmate. I think he understands pretty well. as for me, I'm content with having just him.

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  3. As I meander along through the lunacy that is dating-as-a-divorced-dad, I'm finding the likelihood of forever remaining a one-child-dad growing smaller and smaller. I honestly have no intentions of siring another child, but many of the women I'm interested in already have them, and that's fine. But I refuse to believe it's going to make my daughter's life somehow less fulfilling (at my house) if there isn't another kid around.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughtful stories!

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    1. That's a reason we always give FOR having a second... so she'd have a sibling. Not necessarily for now, but for when we're gone. Then again, if we do our job right and raise a kick-a$$ little girl, she'll have her own circle of people to lean on when that times comes. No?

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  4. J-Dog... great post as always. I'm sorry you felt you had to justify to anyone, what is a couple's own and private decision. Both of my nephews are only child(s). One of them, Lucas, who is one of the most amazing kids I know, has Aspergers Syndrome. While I'm not saying this equals him to be 1.5 or 2 children; because of the extra time, patience and to be honest a bit more money due to private schooling... his parents are no less of parents because he is an only child. You're an amazing dad... period. You and M? Fantastic parents. For anyone to suggest that having an only child is "easy" or a "cake-walk" is nonsense.

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    1. Thanks, bud. I hope I didn't come across as whiny here. And your comment makes me think I didn't, since you're always honest with your responses. (Sometimes brutally hahaha.)

      But Sara below does bring up a good point for the other side...

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  5. I don't think anyone (or at least myself) thinks its not hard work being a parent to one child... As the oldest of 6 and the parent of three allow me to elaborate on why I might feel that "but you only have 1" kind of "one-upmanship-ness"....

    Once your second child has wants and needs that involve more than food and cuddles, that's when the trouble starts. It's the second (or more) child making a mess, causing a fight with your other child, not wanting to share etc... The imagined injustices, the imagined "you love him more than me" etc.. and in general all the gosh dang DRAMA that goes with your one child suddenly having a handy partner-in crime, annoying, pest of a sibling. I, personally would NEVER say that you parent less than I do, or that your parenting means less because you only have one. Call it a simple envy... When you "only" have one and you solve the issue, or wipe the tears... what you don't have is those other children insisting that they get your attention RIGHT NOW or/and trying to climb on you to DEMAND that attention and many times even when you have explained and reasoned and finally demanded yourself that they stop so you can tend to the other child who is BLEEDING ALL OVER THE COUNTER... they don't understand...because they are 18 months old and it doesn't compute.
    So while I would also too, get a bit upset if I felt that someone was implying that I was less of a parent.. I hope you come away from this comment with this tidbit... It's not that you parent your only child less.... its that you have the opportunity to parent her more. And that sir is why, in the wild and crazy days that I have, I am occasionally envious of those with an only child. I do my best, but I would love to have more one on one time with each of them to really get to them more, to really know who they are. You have that, and I traded that treasure for a larger family. (**who I would never give up and love dearly but you understand what I am saying right?).

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    1. Sara - First off, even though this is MY blog, I want you and everyone else to know that I'd never have a problem with someone offering a different opinion than me, as long as that opinion is presented in a respectful manner. And I felt your was.

      As for your point itself, I see it completely. We do get to give Peanut more attention than we would had we had a second. And that's a big bonus. I don't fault you or anyone, for that matter, for having more than one. As long as they can provide for as many as they have.

      In thinking about your comment more, I realize this may be about my neuroses about this, and how it effects Peanut, more than anything else. Sure... people will say stupid things that piss me off. But I'm not going to change them. So I just need to get used to it and/or get over it.

      Thanks for reading, and for jumping into the discussion. I admire the courage it takes to be the first person to present a dissenting opinion.

      -Justin/DKL

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  6. We have an only daughter, as well, and have occasionally struggled with the whole "she should have a sibling...what happens when we're gone and she's the only one..." blah, blah, blah.... But, I must say, that we have reached the very same conclusion on the subject. If we do our job, she will be surrounded with love from extended family and a beautiful circle of friends. She'll be strong and most importantly she'll be okay. My cousin is an only child and lost both of his parents in his early 20's. He is more like a brother to me than an cousin as we embraced him as more than one of our own (obviously he's one of our own as we're related, but that doesn't always translate into really including someone, does it...). We are tremendously lucky in that we have a fantastic family and she has a personality to rival the sun...plenty of friends...so I know that she will truly never be alone. She is funny, outgoing, friendly, confident and curious. I have enough love for more, but one is the only number for us for many reasons and it's just fine. Love your blog. Especially love and appreciate your sense of humor. Thx for sharing.

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  7. Whether you have one child, or 5 children, the bottom line is that we are all PARENTS, that is all. The questioning and eyebrow raising is so irritating. I always love it when people ask us if we know what "causes" that. Obviously, after 5 (all planned) kids, we are pretty certain that we know how it works.
    You and your Director know exactly what works for you and that is all that matters.

    I have said this to you many times my friend, Peanut is one lucky little Miss. She has you for a father :)

    Love this post

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    1. Thank you very much! Yes... you made a decision to have 5 because you are comfortable and confident in your abilities to provide for them. End of story. Why do some jerks have to judge? Like I said before, I just have to ignore them.

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  8. Are there only kids that are brats? Yes. Are there kids that are one of seven that are brats? Absolutely. Whether you're one of one or one of eight that doesn't define who the kid is. You want one? That's your decision an NOBODY else's.

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    1. Are you calling my kid a brat? Didn't your kid call me a mean name on video? ;-p

      In all seriousness, thanks for getting it.

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    2. I should have mentioned also that there are a lot of good kids that are only children just like there are a lot of good kids that are one of eight.

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  9. Thank you for this post. Its something I still struggle with and don't know where we stand. Our "munchkin" is the same age as peanut. There's so much stress in life and all they need is love and play.

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    1. You're right. I don't think Peanut really cares either way. Munchkin is probably the same.

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  10. Your Missy comparison rocks. Loving our "one and done." Yes, it's difficult when she says,"How come my sister is a dog (our Golden Retriever)?" But, hey, that's life. My dad was an only, too and he's a pretty cool guy.

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    1. Peanut always tells us that Luna is her sister. It's one of my favorite things.

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  11. I am not sure people's comments about how it's "so much more work" when you go from one to two (to three and so on) are insulting. When people have asked me for input about having more than one (or even having a child) I am very honest. It's work, and it's expensive, and it changes your life. And having two is more than double the work (negotiating time, at least) - especially when you do what I did and end up with two in diapers - but it's not more than double the parenting. It's just different. That said, now that I have two older kids (well, both out of diapers anyway) I have what some might see as less work. They play together. And that gives me a break. It's not better. It's not worse. It's just different. And it's the same in many ways.

    As someone else said, we're all parents. And we all feel attacked at times. I had a friend tell me she was hurt when I answered her question about whether we were having a third with, "No way! This factory is closed!" It was a reference to my age and my difficult 2nd pregnancy, but she took it as an affront to her choice to have three. I think becoming a parent makes us all just that much more easy to hurt. Our hearts have grown more than we ever imagines.

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    1. Maybe they don't intend them to be insulting. But the tone and the sentiment is off-putting to say the least.

      A friend of mine, who now has three kids, said it best. When he told me his wife was pregnant with #3, I made a joke about going from man-to-man defense to zone, and asked him how they're going to deal. (I can't imagine having more than one.) He said, "The toughest transition is from none to one." So smart and so right.

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  12. Well done J, loved this. Man, one can absolutely be PLENTY - especially when you bring in #2! I have a lot of anxiety about bringing another Neanderbebe into the family, what damage it'll do to #1, #2, to us, to me but I am hopeful that we can do right by us all. It won't be all the time, but I'll be working on it. And I hope that they can forgive me when I fail.

    I was an only child and the product of two toxic, seriously self absorbed bordering on clinically narcissistic people who were clearly out of their element as parents despite their "genius". I spent my life DESPERATE for a sibling . Someone to relate to, to talk to, to take some of the heat off of me. We had a cat and that was my sister. Having one child has never been an option for me - to hell with what everybody else was thinking. (Wanted 10 and then I gave birth. Holy crap eff that!! 3-10 are coming from the baby store!) Fortunately the family pressure to procreate was never there and none of our friends really cared what our plan was! I am grateful not to have had people crawling up my ass about something so clearly none of their business. (BTW I said 'was' because I found out shortly after NeanderBebeGirl was born that I had a sister 11 years older. That's a whole 'nother DKL (cuz you're my Oprah) but we have a good relationship.) I am currently on hiatus from my parents, which hurts my heart but in the long run is what's best for my now family.

    Peanut is blessed with good people as parents; to me siblings are a safety net (granted they can suck too, but I have blinders on to that) and she doesn't need that protection. I love reading about you guys and how much you love her; it's a beautiful thing going on and too hell with everyone else who doesn't understand that you're content and complete. (Uh, I'm assuming you are. Just like they're assuming you need more!)

    Holy post partum verbal diarrhea! Am I even on topic any more? I need to sleep. I guess my point is / was you're awesome, eff everyone else.

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    1. Thank you for this. I love your verbal diarrhea. It soothes and entertains me at the same time.

      You are a lovely friend, person, and mom.

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  13. Thanks for the post. We struggle with this as our decision is being made for us in that multiple IVFs haven't given us a second. And yet we still get the "is he your ONLY?". Can be doubly judgmental feeling when we know we have "failed". But I know T will be fine if not better for it!

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    1. I hope you reach a point where you don't feel failure. That must be tough. Without revealing any details on what did force our decision, IVF had nothing to do with it. But I can just imagine how heartbreaking that must have been.

      People are just being ignorant when they drop the "ONLY" on you. Like I said above, we just have to get over it because they won't.

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  14. Funny because I have 2 children, boys a little over a year apart.When I was scheduling my second c -section I told my ob/ gyn I wanted my tubes tied and she refused saying " Oh no! You'll be back in a year trying for a girl".My husband had a vesectomy before our second was a year old.We knew we could only do 2 kids.They are now 10 and 11 and we STILL have people say "You didn't want a girl?".Makes me laugh because we could have 10 kids and still not have a girl! And NO we didn't want a girl.My boys are exactly what I prayed for..healthy!!

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    1. Explain to me how you are guaranteed a girl if you would have tried again? People are insane. I'm glad YOU are happy with YOUR choices.

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  15. This is great! I too, struggled for years to even have one, and dealt with the "Yeah, well she doesn't even HAVE kids." And now with the "well, you should have had more!" I begged the man upstairs "just let me experience this at least ONCE please!" So I haven't let myself get down when it hasn't happened again. Volunteering at his school, has reminded me that I really only have the patience for one!

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    1. Ah yes...patience. Such a key factor in this equation. We often discussed how a second would completely drop a bomb on our lifestyle. And how we may just be build for one child.

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  16. My husband and I are in the middle of trying to decide if we want to have more children. We have one and so many times we think maybe one is enough. On other days we think maybe more. I think there are many advantages to having one child. I know several people who were only children that turned out to be amazing adults. We have had many people counsel us on the dangers of having only one and we have also been dismissed for only having one (you're not a real parent until you have at least two?). We think that is nonsense.

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    1. That's total nonsense. Do what is best for your family. People who say that are ridiculous.

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  17. What boggles my mind is why any parental units of any number of children feel the need to justify or validate the size of their family. Why DKL? Why? Why is this even a question in conversation? I have one, my best friend has two, my Aunt had nine and I am one of three. So, what does any of the above have to do with the meaning of life? Is there some hidden message or memo that I missed? I frankly could give a rat's petunia on how many children any other family has; truly, here's a rat and a petunia - have at it. I am, now and forever, only concerned with my family unit which consists of me, my DH (darling husband) and nugget. No explanations, no apologies, no justifications. It is what it is. My best friend often reminds me that sometimes a red door is just a fecking red door. And she is much smarter than me so she must be right. :P

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    1. I wish I knew why, Nikki. I don't have an answer. But I do know that you're absolutely right. (So is your friend.) And I'm not justifying our decision anymore. Thanks for sharing.

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  18. I have never understood why people feel it is their business to tell other people how many kids they should have.
    Don't defend yourself. Don't explain yourself. So not their business! Your decision. You know what is best for your family.
    My oldest son was an only child for 10 years. We had decided that he would be an "only." I heard it all. I used to joke with him that I would take a lot less grief about him being an only child if he would be a big pain. :-)

    One funny thing, though, life sometimes changes things without our permission.

    From the time he could talk my oldest son wanted (and had names for) 4 brothers and 2 sisters. We laughed. When he had 1 brother and 2 sisters, we stopped laughing about it! When sister number 3 asked for a little brother, we laughed. She got 2! We don't laugh now! :-)

    I have tons of kids. That's right for me.
    You have one. That's right for you.
    Don't let anyone bully you into thinking otherwise.
    On the other hand, don't bully yourself if you change your mind later.
    Good parenting isn't number related.
    It's about being the best parent you can be in the parenting situation you have.

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  19. From an only child who came to your blog via IhopeIwinatoaster. . .I loved, loved, loved being an only child. I always felt sorry for kids with siblings because they seemed to have such a different and distant relationship with their parents than I did; in their families it always seemed to be the parents v. the kids where in my family it was always the Three Musketeers. I loved my three musketeers way of life with my parents. I would not have traded my only child status for anything. As an adult only child I do get upset with my only child status every once in a while. When I think of being the only one to have to care for both of them I get a little mad. When I think of being the only one to settle their estates (because trust me, probate is a pain no matter how much planning you do), I get a little mad. When I think of having to be "on" during the entirety of their wakes and not being able to "tap" out if I am about to break down since I am the only direct representative of the family, I get a little mad. When I think of having noone who will be able to share certain memories about vacations and the like, I get a little mad.

    Then I think of my cousins who are all estranged from each other and I think having a sibiling in no way guarantees me that I will have someone to shoulder the responsibility of elder care for my parents or someone to take the burden off me at a wake or to share happy memories about family vacations. What being an only did for me and does for me is give me a relationship with my parents that I cherish and would have been significantly different (not better or worse, just different)if I had had siblings.

    And in the end, I so just love being an only.

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  20. I suggest twins, the BOGO of parenthood. Having struggled with infertility, given up, then naturally getting pregnant with twins, it seems we get what we get. I secretly wish we could have more kids but, I am over fifty and it doesn't seem fair.

    What I think is always funny, and happens frequently, is when a mom or dad says to me that it must be hard to have twins when they are standing there, baby on their hip, toddler chewing on their shoes. I am of the opinion that it is rough for all parents and, ultimately rewarding.

    I admire you for taking on this issue, the parenting "wars" are complicated, divisive and unnecessary. Kudos as always.

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