Last night it happened, the moment I’d been dreading for years. After dinner and before bedtime, my six-year-old daughter broke down crying and said to me, “When Dad comes home it feels like you two are together and I’m off on my own.”
It felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
She’s my only child. I have no plans for another. And 99% of the time, I’m fine with my decision. In fact, I love having one kid. It’s fun, it’s easy and I know it’s all I can manage. For years, I tried to will myself into wanting another but the thought of getting pregnant and raising another human being gave me the chills and the sweats all at the same time. So I made peace with my choice, even though I knew it meant my daughter would not have a sibling. But when she told me she was lonely, my heart hurt for her.
I totally get why she felt left out. When hubby came home last night, we embraced a bit. It was G-Rated, but it was sweet and intimate. Our daughter stood by watching, which I thought was a good thing. I’d never seen my parents kiss or hug. Actually, I can’t remember one tender moment between them. So when hubby and I cuddle, I feel a little bit guilty that we're excluding her but also glad that she gets to see how much her mom and dad love each other.
A few hours later, the waterworks began and she that’s when she told me that I abandon her when dad gets home. I debated whether to remind her that most nights I’m usually on my phone or laptop, ignoring both of them, but decided against it. I debated whether to tell her she might be tired or coming down from the sugar high I caused by feeding her pancakes for dinner but decided against that too. Because the truth is, she'd made a discovery: mommy and daddy are a couple. Two people. And she’s a part of us, but our love for each other is different than our love for her.
As I gathered her on my lap to comfort her, I wondered what the heck I could possibly say to make her feel better. “The only way I got through the first year of your life was by telling myself there is no way in hell I'd ever do it again” didn’t seem like the right approach. “My eggs, at 39, are too tired to fertilize” also seemed a little over her head. So instead, I told her the truth, which is that I understand.
I told her that it's hard to be the only kid around adults. That it’s hard to not have siblings to play around with when mom and dad are on their own. I also told her about some friends of mine, women who grew up with parents who were very obviously in love. While they were happy for their parents, they also felt – as kids and later on, as adults – a bit envious of their parents' relationship.
As my little one cuddled on my lap, I wrapped my arms around her, squeezed ever so slightly and watched her face as my words sank in. Eventually, the pace of her tears slowed and she seemed to calm her. With my fingers entwined in hers I found myself questioning how all of my choices would impact her later on. Is giving her a loving home enough to help set her on her own course in life? I used to think so. But like so many other aspects of parenthood, I really have no idea.
[photo credit: squidoo]