Summer With An Only Child

by Jennifer Scharf
Originally Published: 
A brown-haired child leaning their head on their hand while looking upwards

A fallen Catholic and a non-practicing Muslim move into an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood to raise their only child. It sounds like a joke, but we are that family. The weird, non-believers with a freaky kid. Let’s face it, only children are the stuff horror movies are made of.

Summer is a ghost town around here. Everybody sails off to their island “beach shacks” or are enrolled in full-day fancy camps where they learn how to macramé and ride ponies. Back in March when camps are filling up, I have delusions of making hair halos out of dandelions and sunbathing. Two rounds of Monopoly and a tea party with American Girl dolls and we are both scowling. I am my daughter’s mother, playmate, sister, and cousin all rolled into one and it’s equally unsatisfying for both of us.

I think parents of only children should be able to rent a sibling for the day. Pick up your pretend brother on the way to the beach and drop him off on the way home. Rent-a-sibling would also come in handy for those summer trips to amusement parks—I wouldn’t have to go on all the spinny rides!

Didn’t we do enough all year, anyway? Sleep-under parties, organic lemonade stands, play dates, birthday parties, piano, swim, and tennis. I feel prey to Russian Math and thankfully drew the line with Mandarin lessons. And the competition isn’t just for kids. I got peer pressured into taking Pure Barre classes—exercise for rich white women—and even bought the trendy workout attire. Yoga stirrup pants with sticky feet and backless workout shirts. I look like an 80s music video gone wrong.

I’m tired of trying to keep up with suburbia. Kiddo, can’t we just take a break? Can you just run around under the lawn sprinkler? I don’t want to talk to the skinny moms in their strapless sundresses chattering about the new OPI pedicure colors while you learn to code on your laptop. I want to plant my ass in my cheap and splintery Adirondack chair and drink non-organic hard lemonade while listening to 70s soft rock with unshaven legs. You know, like my mom did.

I get it; it’s boring. Really, there is nobody to play with. I didn’t have to think about this stuff when I was a growing up. I ran around with my siblings and the neighborhood kids, a tribe, like wild Indians until the sun went down. We walked around barefoot and bought Rocket Pops from the ice cream man with money from our piggy banks.

In lieu of a sibling, I added a puppy to the mix. But now I realize that puppies can’t go on impromptu summer weekend getaways or spend the day at the beach.

I get the feeling this isn’t going to be a sit around the fire-pit roasting marshmallows while singing kumbaya kind of summer.

I ask my daughter what would make this the most fantastical summer of her whole 6-year-old life. “Building an Elsa castle,” she says, without hesitation.

And so we’re building a Nordic cardboard castle in our driveway.

“Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” she sings, happily.

Not really, but I get to work. All those pony-riding computer-programming little kids will want to do what we’re doing. If you build it, they will come.

That’s what I hope for anyway, as I take another swig of hard lemonade.

Related post: It’s Summertime! Quit Your Bitchin’, Kids!

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