A couple of longtime friends of ours just had their baby a few days ago, and hubby and I went over to their house to show our support and meet this new little arrival. It’s always interesting to see how soon the child starts to resemble some of his lineage, and hear how the parents are coping with the swift and sudden change of their entire world. I enjoy the little musings about hiccups and midnight feedings, my heart still warms at the sight of the love between child and mother. Childfree or not, I am and always have been a soft heart.
So there I am, on the couch when mommy comes out of the bedroom with the smallest (as in, newest – he was 10 days old) baby that I have ever laid my eyes on. He had a face like a little old man and his tiny hands and feet were wrinkly and red. His eyes were defiantly closed and he was sitting crumpled up on mom’s chest, totally comfortable and drunken with dinner. I was watching, smiling…perfectly happy right where I was and then BOOM! Mom throws the kid in my arms. I was totally not ready, totally not given the choice, but in order to avoid an awkward moment I took the baby. And there he was. This creation of two of my friends. He had the same chin as his dad, who was sitting next to me, probably waiting for me to tell him I was uncomfortable and give him back. I waited for him to fuss and cry right away but he didn’t. I laid him down on my lap and watched him stretch and change colors (hilarous) and pull at his own face. He was freaking adorable. He was warm and soft and squishy and his feet were little perfect miniatures. He was delicious. I will admit I was scared to break him, and I felt like I was being watched the whole time he was in my lap, but at the same time I loved it. And when I realized I was loving it, that’s when I once again asked myself that ultimate question, the one I have asked myself thousands of times before: do I want one of these?
I waited to hear the answer.
As I watched his face, one eye opened, and then he sneezed the tiniest little sneeze ever. Then he stretched all four limbs and sighed. My heart melted. I waited. After a minute or two the answer finally came: nope. No, I don’t want one. I am satisfied just by this little moment of ours. Even with his precious frame snuggled against my chest and my cute-radar on overload, I know that this is enough for me. I will visit again at another time, perhaps hold him once more, or just be there and participate in watching his every movement. And I know that I will have my fill once I leave. And that’s perfectly acceptable. I know myself, and that is a fine thing.
Dogs, on the other hand: totally different story. The couple’s little yellow dog jumped up onto my lap and laid in it, as soon as the newborn left. She can’t stay away from me – and I’m often told that I’m her “favorite human friend.” Unlike with a baby, I am confident when handling a pooch. I know how to hold them, talk to them, scratch them behind their ears. I innately understand how a dog works. But not a child. I surprise myself sometimes, how different I am from most women.
And speaking of kids, I wanted to make a mention about the whole only-child vs. siblings debate. I’ve been hearing a lot about it lately, and even some of it from a good friend of mine. She has one perfectly sweet and totally well-behaved 3 year old son (whom I adore beyond measure). She and her husband have been going back and forth for some time about whether they want another. What will our son miss out on by being an only child? she wonders. It’s a typical worry among parents in this very over-pressurized pronatalist society. We are told that if we don’t supply our first kid with a second kid to play with, he will become lonely and spoiled. I find it strikingly similar to the “What will you do when you’re old and you have no kids to care for you?” argument. It sounds like a lot of conjecture and fear-mongering to me. The reality in both situations is that you cannot guarantee the behavior or inclinations of any child you bear. My brother and I were born three years apart, and not for a day since he learned to talk have we ever gotten along. I grew up wishing I’d been an only child (and still do). And then there’s my grandfather, who had two children. One died at the age of 36 and the other one has been disowned for decades due to some bad blood. He is 80 years old now and staying with a neice and nephew – a turnout that still would have occurred if he never had children. Just because you raise a kid doesn’t mean she’ll want to care for you when you’re old, and just because you supply your child with a sibling does not mean either of them will appreciate it.
When people pose the second-child question, I’ve noticed they often seem to ignore the positives of only child-dom. Having one child means you can focus all of your parenting, all of your love, attention, your college savings and vacations to Disney World on them. You don’t have to drive a huge mom-van, you never have to buy a house with more than two bedrooms. You don’t have to worry about giving two children only half of what they might otherwise need from you, especially in this waning economy. Not to mention only one child instead of two (or more) means a parent who is at least twice as alert, well-rested and emotionally (not to mention financially) available to that one child.
And what of the spoiling? Well…what of it? A spoiled child is the product of the parents’ raising/coddling/lack of discipline, not lack of another child. Why can’t you teach a child to share without a sibling around? Why do you need a second baby in order to give your first one the tools he needs to deal with the world around him? In my very not-so-humble opinion, a spoiled child is a spoiled child, whether or not they have a sibling (in which case you would just have two spoiled children – something that NEVER happens, right?). And then of course there is the argument that many people ignorantly roll their eyes at, but I for one am quite dedicated to: we don’t actually NEED more children. You don’t have to replace yourselves. We have more than enough people to go around (so many, in fact, that the planet cannot feed or support all of us for very much longer). This world is so overpopulated that you don’t need to go far to find another kid for your kid to play with. Homes are so thickly settled now to accommodate all the people, I’m surprised I don’t bump into three or four toddlers on my way to my car in the morning.
So why put all the pressure on yourself to have a second kid if you’re not sure about it? Why not just enjoy the perfect little single-serving child that you’ve already made? I mean, you never know if the second one will come out demanding cookies for dinner and uncontrollably screaming obscenities in the grocery store and laughing at age 4 like my little brother did. *shiver*