I’ve been a parent to an only child (making me a single-child parent?) for five years now.
When I envisioned having kids, back in my salad days of youth and freedom, I always saw myself having at least two. I have siblings, and despite the occasional incident (like when one brother accidentally tore my hair up with an electric shoe shiner, or another brother accidentally almost cost me a finger with a pair of scissors), I enjoy having siblings. Ergo, I wanted my kids to have siblings. Case closed.
But life got in the way, circumstances demanded compromise, and for a while, it seemed like our son would be it for us. As you probably have guessed, the times are a-changing.
This is my pledge not to change with them.
Now that I’m shifting from being a single-child parent to a multi-child parent, I want to make sure I don’t forget how obnoxious it was to be judged. I won’t forget why I once felt the need to defend myself from those who would demean and belittle parents with only one child.
As I prepare to leave their ranks, here is my pledge to parents who are raising an only child:
I promise not to act superior to you.
I promise not to forget how hard having one kid could be, and I promise never to chuckle condescendingly or say something smug and knowing, like, “Just you wait!” or “You have no idea!” I promise never to imply that you’re somehow not a real parent because you only have one child.
I promise not to be a martyr. I promise to remember that I made the choice to have another child, and I promise not to take out any resulting stress on you. If (and when) I break that promise, I promise not to tell you I envy your single-child lifestyle, or to bemoan the fact that it was so much easier when I only had one, or to wish, in your presence, that I only had one myself.
I promise not to cry in front of you.
I promise not to ask when you’re having another. I promise no to ask why you’re not having another. I promise not to say anything about “completing” my family. I promise not to suggest that you should try for a boy or a girl, or to playfully imply that you’re missing out, or to wonder aloud if your kid is lonely. I promise not to ask if you grew up with siblings, if you worry that your child will selfish or spoiled, to act concerned and inquire whether your only child has any cousins or a lot of friends.
I promise to never assume you’re less of a parent than me, or don’t have to work as hard at parenting as I do. I promise to never diminish your stature as a parent merely because our circumstances are different.
You just have to promise to never say, “I told you so.”
Parenting is hard, no matter your situation. Being an involved, conscientious mom or dad takes all of your effort and attention, even on days when you have little of either left to give. Every parent has different challenges to deal with, no matter how many kids they own.
We all understand this, but we rarely seem to practice it. For some reason, despite the fact that when you become a parent, you join a community, there remains almost constant in-fighting and judgment.
It’s silly, especially when we can all agree that it’s our children who are the enemy.