A Large Family Is Best, I Guess

My sweet angel.<br>-Alistair's mom
My sweet angel.
-Alistair's mom

It doesn’t happen much, only ever so often. When it does happen - someone commenting on my son being an only child - as if it’s a bad thing - it’s disappointing, especially if they’re a parent. In this particular case, it was a mother with multiple children, so maybe she was projecting her frustration of her life choices onto me. Recently, she had a huge, outside birthday party for her daughter (for both boys and girls) and when she was done decorating, it looked like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, I kid you not. While it was tacky, it did scream, “CHILDREN, COME PLAY HERE.” My son, the kid who lives next door to the party, didn’t receive an invite. 

As for my feelings, she could have had twenty dancing clowns performing a fire show and if I didn’t get an invite, I could have cared-less. My son did care though and his feelings looked hurt. He didn’t cry or make a big deal, he’s a big boy, but I could tell. I addressed it with her, by asking her to give me the heads up the next time she has a big, outside birthday party like that, so I can plan ahead and take him away for the day. (I did it not only to spare my child’s feelings for future parties, but because it’s disruptive and loud). Her response: “Oh, because he’s an only child,” among other clueless ones. In my mind: no not at all, because you’re an asshole. What I said: “because you decorated your front lawn to entice children.”

She ended up giving a halfhearted apology. She’s entitled not invite my son to any of her children’s birthday parties. It doesn’t create a sense of community by doing so though, it creates a rift. Now, I’m tempted to not invite her kid to my son’s next birthday party. I don’t know if I’ll do that though, because I’m not like her, we’re neighbors, who live but a foot away from each other. I’ll have to see how things are come party time. We’ve never been friends, just neighbors, with not much in common (zero in fact). Her other response to my request for a heads up when she has those loud, outside birthday parties like that with the over-the-top decor: “I think it’s a bit much, if I remember I might, but I certainly won’t make it a priority to do so.” 

The year before, for the same daughter’s birthday, she not only invited my child, she enlisted me to help plan and execute it under the mask of a “block party.” She didn’t fool anyone, we all knew it was her kid’s birthday party. She sent two invites, one for the block party and one for the birthday party (who has time for that?), I received both, I don’t know about everyone else. They clued in when they saw the birthday cake and present station I suppose. I thought it was pretty outrageous that she wanted to turn her daughter’s party into a block party, but thought it could be fun for my boy. I agreed to help and set-up the music, outside kid’s entertainment and even helped her set-up and break-down her carnival theme, she had a ton of stuff and not a clue as to what to do with it.

My son being an only-child had nothing to do with the fact that I addressed my disdain with her insensitivity to this year’s party. Why she said that is something I can’t quite figure out. It must bother her that my son is an only-child. I don’t know why though. It’s true that he gets a ton of attention, doesn’t have to share his toys (yes, we’re teaching him to share still), has a bunch of extracurricular activities he’s involved in, has play dates galore and then there’s school and camp and of course the individual attention he gets on a regular basis from myself and his pop. The kid is busy, no wonder all he wants to do is relax sometimes because, “he’s always running from here to there,” as he puts it. I don’t know. It was a bizarre choice of words on her part.

Maybe it bothers her that he’s an only child because she sees me reading books and magazines outside, something she hasn’t done in years. Who knows. I see her with all her kids and she’s always in a struggle, yelling and screaming at them. Having a small child is a lot of work, having four small children looks overwhelming. My mom confirmed it is and said it’s near impossible without someone to help, that explains the random nannies who lived with us throughout the years. What if medically one child was all I could have? Anyway you look at it, her claiming my son is an only child, as the reason for me addressing her having set up Disneyland next door to my house and not giving me the heads up my kid wasn’t invited at the very least, is total B.S.

It’s no one’s business why I have one child, but I bet parents with a bunch of kids would like to know why. How about I flip that question around, why do they have so many? I’m so busy as it is with one, two or three must have the parents running around like crazy. I’m sure they do it with a smile on their face like Mary Poppins did. Undoubtedly, the answers would run along the lines of them wanting to have a big family, which is a great reason and wanting to have play friends for their first kid, not so great reason. These are some of the things moms have said to me in conversation about their family. I never hear the one reason I’m fully expecting: “because I love kids so much and I want a lot around.” I love kids too and that’s why I have one, but to each their own of course. My way may not be the best way. 

Whatever their reasons are, they’re none of my business. I have no idea if birthing and raising multiple children is amazing, I bet it is for those parents, just as having one is amazing for me. I have another neighbor with three kids, you can see her love for her kids, always hugging and kissing them. Of course there are times all moms and dads will not be happy when it comes to their kids, because they can be little monsters sometimes. I have another friend with two kids and one of them is WILD, the mom is so sweet and takes great care of her, but the other daughter, as the mom admits frankly, “ends up with hardly any attention at all” (I’ve always admired her realness). Then there are the families with one mom or one dad and two moms and no dad and two dads and no mom. There are also grown woman out there, with no kids at all. The idea that a large family is the way to go is stuck in the past.  

I have a big family, we are four sisters in all. Growing up there was a lot of action and drama. When my parents started their family, having lots of kids was the way to go and that’s great for them. Me, I’m perfectly content having one. As for having another for a play friend for him, that’s not a good enough reason for me, that’s a tall order people. I fill that role, his pop does, an animal can, an actual friend can, an outing, books, his guitar etc., etc. Having that same level of interaction I have with my son, with more than one kid, doesn’t seem possible to me. While single child households are the minority (although we’re rising up, 40% of households in Seattle have one child), it’s not a reason for multiple children households (not all by any means, only those who think this and are vocal about it) to shame us, as if we did something wrong.

My reason for having one child is because that’s what I wanted when I had him. I was never the type who planned out having a husband and kids, that was the last thing on my mind. Call me the product of feminism if you will. My mom pushed me to build a career, versus a family (she didn’t start bugging me about having a baby until after I was married). While my mom chose to be housewife, she’s one of the women Gloria Steinem was speaking to and who inadvertently heard her. My mom has always been a feminist and wanted for her daughters to be independent and career-focused. There is nothing wrong with choosing to be a housewife either. If that’s what a woman wants to do, great go for it. What’s not great is when it’s not what she wants, but the husband insists she must be. I can’t even imagine a world like that, but it did exist.

I was hyper-focused on my career and other life goals I wanted to accomplish and was perfectly happy with the single, city life (I was partying a lot too, who am I kidding). From there, I decided to get married, a HUGE step and commitment in my book in of itself, thinking of starting a family didn’t come until later. When it did come (thanks to my mom for planting the seed, not literally of course), I went ahead and decided to have a baby. From there, time took over pretty fast, as we all know how fast time flies and here we are seven years later and I have exactly what I wanted, the wonderful child that I have. Some may think, you can have two amazing children, that’s true. I can also have two ice cream cones right now, but I’m perfectly happy with one, but again, to each their own.

Having kids is a huge, life-changing choice, not a one-off. I’m glad my parents had all of us girls, it worked out great for them. My one child household has worked out great for me too. I remember being a kid and wishing I was an only child sometimes. I’m sure there isn’t one kid out there from a large family who didn’t have the same thought. I was just a kid, of course I adore each and every one of my sisters, through all the drama, there’s always love and I’m grateful to have them. I’m over the moon to have a kid too and my boy is perfectly happy as well (in case you’re wondering). Our main challenge is cutting back on what he gets, so he doesn’t think life is so easy.

I also have a good amount of free time for myself, as he’s now getting bigger, he’ll immerse himself into video games, movies and comic books (like all kids do). When this happens, it’s my time to do whatever it is I like to do; read books, write, chill with Netflix, paint my nails (a phenomena lost in his early years and is now back), gardening, baths, naps, etc. If there are any parents out there reading this who have one child and are thinking about having another but aren’t sure, I’m here to tell you, it’s great. We stand alone happy, with each other and with others. Yeah the kids will probably wonder what it’s like to have siblings, just as I wonder what it would be like to have a brother. That’s all it is though, an inconsequential thought. As for them being lonely, which is what some people think about single children and have mindlessly said to me, it’s not true, what am I? Chopped liver?

My sisters and I, believe it or not, we had our own friends. I always had my own friends and my one sister and I are only a year apart. We wanted that, we got sick of each other. We played together too, just as I do with my son and we played alone, just as my son does. Big families are great, they also have their cons: I was ignored a lot, my son isn’t; my thoughts and ideas only got through the conundrum of a big family ever so often, my son’s are not; I argued with my siblings over the dumbest things, my son doesn’t have that drama; family trips were limited, as it was an ordeal to organize so many people, my kid’s calendar is packed with fun stuff; my parent’s love and attention was spread thin, mine is not, my son gets it all. I’m happy in my big and small family, so is my boy.

Do I ever wonder what it would be like for my kid if he had sibling? Only in those times when a parent comments on him being an only child to try and shame me (read: the neighbor) or when an acquaintance asks if I’m going to have more (I don’t mind when someone close to me asks this personal question), or in some cases tells me to have more ― as if they own my body or control my life, [because I guess the decisions they made in regards to how many children to have is best?] “He needs a play friend though, you should have more.” (A near stranger has actually said this to me) In my mind: oh okay, I’ll get right on that, because you sure do seem to want me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen for some reason. What I say: nice to see you, have a good one. Ironically enough, being barefoot and pregnant around the house is quite liberating actually...been there, done that.

 

Fabiola blogs at tellitsister.com. 

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