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A glimpse into the brain of a writer-momma-nerd.

“Only” Is Not a Dirty Word

Posted by nattya61 on June 9, 2011

I read about the upcoming documentary Rise of the Onlies (http://www.riseoftheonlies.com/) and decided to write a bit of our story for it (and received a very nice e-mail back from the filmmaker). Here it is:

My mom always told me she dreamed of having a little girl. She never talked about dreaming of having “kids” plural, just one little girl to dote on and kiss and hug and play with every day. My parents tried for years to have a child and had almost given up. Then, while reading a McCall’s magazine, Mom read a story about a new fertility drug that she thought might be able to help. She took the magazine to her doctor and they decided to give it a try. After less than 6 months, she was pregnant with me.

Mom had me at age 31, a week away from her 32nd birthday. She always told me that she thought she was just too old to have more than one child at that age, but now that I’m older and I look back at her words and actions, I can see that she was just using that as an excuse. She didn’t really want another child, but was afraid to say it. My mother didn’t really like children other than me. She’d tolerate them, but after an hour or two they’d get on her nerves. She liked everything to be predictable. Everything needed to be clean, neat, and in its place, the place she deemed was the proper place. Children, to her, were unpredictable. You can’t always control what they do. With one child, it’s easier to set that schedule and maintain control. She was able to raise me and keep her world the way she wanted it. I grew up knowing that I was very wanted and loved. However, I don’t think she would have been able to keep her sanity with more than one child around.

My dad, on the other hand, would have been able to handle a house with multiple children. He grew up with ten siblings, but I don’t think that’s why. He just has a different personality type. Dad doesn’t have obsessive compulsive traits. He is more easy-going and always said that he didn’t care if they had one or four kids. As long as everyone was happy, he was happy.

Growing up I never knew if I would have kids at all. I enjoyed being an only child and never longed for a sibling. I had a lot of friends and two cousins who lived right next door, so I was never lonely. Plus, Mom and Dad played with me like they were kids. Dad would play basketball with me during the day and teach me how to play poker in the evenings. Mom would play school and Barbies. I never felt the need to have other children around all the time. I enjoyed being with my parents or just being alone, but I always knew my friends or cousins were just a phone call away if I needed them too.

A lot of people say only children are awkward. I believe it’s not siblings or the lack thereof that makes a child awkward or not. I believe it’s just in the child’s make-up. Mom always said I was born as a little adult. I understood things most children did not, from social concepts to physics and literature. I also learned very quickly. I think being an only child simply helped further my intelligence since my parents could focus on teaching me instead of wrangling multiple children. Still, being an only child definitely wasn’t what created my intelligence. From this intelligence, came my awkwardness. I remember coming home from the first day of kindergarten so confused, asking Mom, “Why can’t so-and-so read? What’s wrong with him?” Mom had to explain to me that some kids just hadn’t learned to read yet, but that they would in school. I don’t think having a sibling would have helped me understand children better since any child raised in my house would have assumingly been raised the same as me and have a similar knowledge base.

It wasn’t until I met my husband that I started thinking seriously about having kids myself. I’d always thought about it in a fantasy-like sense, but the older I got the more I didn’t really know if I’d ever have kids at all. When I met Bryan, I knew I wanted children. He said he wanted two, so I just assumed that’s what we would do. I really wanted a girl, though, because there was still that spot in the back of my mind that always knew we’d have just one, but I pushed that idea out of my head because I for a moment lost myself in the baby craze. I forgot how happy I was growing up. That memory was replaced by the idea of the “perfect” family with 2.5 kids and a dog and a white picket fence. I had forgotten that that is never what I wanted in the first place.

Then, I got pregnant.

My pregnancy was quite a difficult one, but in the end I gave birth to a very healthy baby. Half-way through the pregnancy we found out we were having a boy, our Nicholas. It took me a week to get used to the idea of having a boy. The further I got into the pregnancy, the more that idea of having just one child was creeping towards the front of my mind. I had to come to terms with losing that dream of having a baby girl, just like my Mom did almost three decades earlier. However, it just took a week, and eventually I was very excited about having a little boy. Now, I can’t imagine having any child other than Nicholas.

After Nicholas was born, I still partly believed that eventually I would want another child. Then, I started to realize the joy each month when I got my period. The older Nicholas got, the happier I became with our family of three and the more I actually became scared of getting pregnant. I realized that this is what I know and what I want. Luckily, my husband came to the same conclusion as well. He is getting his vasectomy in two weeks and we are amazingly excited. We know we are doing the best for us and for our son by choosing to not have any more children.

We are able to give Nicholas everything; all of our resources and focus can be on him. We enjoy luxuries we wouldn’t if we had more than one child. We can go out to eat, go shopping, or take trips with minimal planning. When I was a child we travelled a lot. My parents took me to Hawaii when I was five, not because we were rich, but because my parents were able to plan and save, which is easy to do with one child. I can’t see myself really being able to enjoy life with more than one child. I don’t want to lose myself or my relationship with my husband by having our sole purpose in life being parents. By having only one, we have the time and resources to take care of ourselves, each other, and our son.

I hope that in the future with more people choosing to have an only the negative stereotypes will start to dissipate. I’ve heard so many things about onlies from they are selfish to awkward. Trust me – some of the most selfish, unthinking people I’ve ever met have siblings. A child will be selfish if his parents teach him to be selfish. It’s really that simple.

I wouldn’t change being an only child for the world, and I’m excited that we’ve chosen to give the same gift to our son.

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