Hard part of parenting an only child: Answering the "just one?" question

Hard part of parenting an only child: Answering the "just one?" question

I’m often asked, “How many children do you have?”

I always answer, “One.”

Most often the questioner responds, “Just one?”

People usually ask the last question as if they are incredulous. Some seem surprised when they ask the follow up, others are unsure or downright disbelieving. Some say it in their “Are you sure?” voice.

I wonder if they expect me to reply, “Oh God, wait. No! I’m wrong. I totally forgot about Bobby.  Two! I have two kids! Guess I should see what he’s been up to lately, huh?”

or “Sorry, I’m really bad at math, I’ve got three”

or “You mean I was supposed to take the last one home from the hospital? No way! ”

I’m tempted to say, “Eh, I asked the coyotes who roam our neighborhood if they were interested in raising the younger one, and I trust he’s doing just fine with them. Wolves would have been preferable, but I just haven’t seen any lately.”

I think some questioners would feel much better if I burst into tears and confessed a medical problem that prevents me from having the big family they think I should have, as if that would make book club, choir practice or grocery shopping better for all involved. Trust me, people, I’m not a pretty crier. You really don’t want that.

I’m a big believer that reproductive decisions belong to the individual making them and are not anyone else’s business. Maybe I do have a medical condition, or maybe I just don’t want to have more kids, or maybe I can’t afford the $286,000 cost of rearing one child from birth through age seventeen, or maybe I have one of the million other reasons that people consider when planning their family. If I want someone to know my reason(s), I will tell her/him. If I choose not to share, let’s all just assume that we each have our own good reasons and stop judging.

Please stop being shocked that my daughter is my only child.

Being an only child is not a strange, rare disease, so don’t treat it like it is something shocking or to be pitied.

Newsflash: there are 14 million only children in America.  They account for 22% of children in this country.

An article from KidPointz offers advice for raising an only child tween, including recommending that I not spoil my child. Do they actually think that my parenting philosophy is “make sure that my child turns out to be completely spoiled, because spoiled brats are fun to be around and that always works out well for them later on in life”?

The article goes to explain that I should not spoil my only child “so your child fits in better with the rest of the world.” It seems like there’s a dichotomy between only children and the remainder of the entire human population.  She’s not an alien, she’s a person and she is very much already a part of the world. To my knowledge, there is no enclave of only children that hangout together discussing who was spoiled the best. As mentioned above, there are 14 million only children. That hardly makes my only child one of a few in her situation. You probably already know that my parenting focus is not necessarily helping her “fit in better.”

The “Raising an Only Child” article in Parents has the tag line “Parenting just one has its own joys and difficulties.” True.  I think any parent of any number of children agrees that parenting is full of wonder and hardships. To those who have told me that it must be SO easy to have just one child, I ask, “Is parenting ever really easy?” Bring me the mother that said, “That was a piece of cake.” I have questions for her.

So yes, only children are at times different from kids with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 18 kids in the family. Sometimes short kids have different worries than tall kids. Sometimes gifted or challenged kids face different challenges. And sometimes kids face exactly the same issues, as do their parents. Why not focus on the commonalities instead of being shocked that I have one child?

For fun, here’s a list of Famous Only Children.

Leave a comment