Guest Post: Only Child, Many Questions
My husband and I thought long and hard about only having one child, we liked the little unit that three of us made: so transportable, so intense and so calm. We went on to have three children by choice and live in the chaos. I am sure now that I am the parent of a "brood," having miscommunicated, said the wrong thing and inadvertantly hurt parents who have "onlys." I asked Katie, aka motherbumper, and one of the creative forces behind the infamous Bad Moms Club to do a guest post about being the parent of an only child.
But Why Is She An Only Child?
It’s impossible for me to count the number of situations where the perfect comeback only arrives in my brain after the situation has ended. Most of the time I’m satisfied with my reactions, and sometimes I want to hit rewind and get an impossible do-over which results in wit and a more pleasant outcome. The situation I’m about to describe, however, isn’t one of those times because I am still lost in finding the perfect comeback.
While I stood back and tried not to be a helicopter another mom approached me. One thing I've always loved about becoming a parent is the instant ice-breaker children provide in social situations with other parents as there’s always a common ground for us to start talking. This particular conversation started innocently enough. She asked me if we came there often (we did), did we like the neighbourhood (we do), and if we were doing any city recreation programs (we were). Of course, I lobbed similiar questions back her way and the conversation continued on innocently enough. That is, until she asked a rather innocuous-sounding query that started something like this: “Is she your only child?” Before this incident I had no negative reaction to this question. You either have one child or you have more. I said “Yes”, and before I could ask her the same, she asked “But why?” with a somewhat shocked tone.
The tone and depth of this personal inquiry instantly gave me an uneasy vibe stronger than when a stranger asks "How much do you make?” These are private territories that the inquisitors are treading on. I didn't know this woman from a sandpit ringworm, so I just laughed because hey, when all else fails, start laughing. It usually confuses people from what I've gathered from experience. But laughter did not satisify her and she asked again with a bit more force. So I pleasantly responded with “Well that's a really personal question...” and tried to change the direction of the conversation. But she was relentless. For what seemed like an eternity -- which was probably less than five minutes -- she proceeded to tell me the disservice I was heaping on my child. Didn't I know that only children are odd? They have issues with sharing? What if -- God forbid -- something happened to my only child? What would I do then? That took the cake and I felt like a gypsy curse had just been cast. But I’m a bit ashamed to admit that all I did on my behalf was to listen and wait for an appropriate out. Once I saw the out, I did the only thing my shocked self could do, I announced to my kid that it was time to leave, grabbed our sand bucket and left. Wimpy, I know.
This incident has been played over and over in my mind since it happened years ago and each time I still hesitate on how I would react if given another chance. Sometimes I want to rip her a new one, sometimes I want to make her feel awful for her questions, but most of the time I just want to tell her to look at it from my side of the sandbox. Maybe we've been trying to have another child, maybe there have been miscarriages, maybe there were fertility treatments wreaking havoc on my hormones as she tramped on my emotions, or maybe – stranger forbid - we felt one was just perfect for our family. That’s a lot of maybes right there and to the strangers, friends, and even extended family that prod and poke at these 'only children' maybes, maybe they should just mind their own business.
Since the Internet seems to think fast on its feet, I ask, “What would have you done in the same situation? Do you have one child? Have you ever been so brazen to ask? Got any good ringworm jokes?”
Katie, aka motherbumper, has been neglecting her own blog since 2006 but stays regular at her love child The Bad Moms Club and thrives on the challenge of keeping it under 140 on twitter. She's a full-time IT nerd who lives in Toronto with her husband and one child but never ask her why.
Want more? Last year I wrote a post about the annoying music my son was listening to and I linked to a song I loved that later went huge.