Monday, June 04, 2007
The "When" Question...
I was trying not to post anymore about parenting or any of the self-absorbed drama that goes along with it. On a few levels, my parenting experience hasn't match those of my friends. A handful understand, but most just don't see the depth of what I am talking about, what is slightly different, but so altering in the course of life. I've talked in the past about just having one child and the unexpected rip tide of feelings it has produced. The doubt and sadness rushes in one minute and out it goes the next. It's not so much self pity, but more confusion and defeat. Although once in a while the singleton issue does make me feel a little excited for the future and all the things Noah and I might do together.
I get it EVERYDAY. Everyday somebody asks me ; "So when are you having more?", and it has been particularly bad these past few months because empire waist dresses are in. Flowy dresses with high waists, they look just like maternity wear, nobody can tell if you are 4 months pregnant or not. With a two year old in tow and a flowy dress, they look sideways at my stomach and say; "So when are you having more?" They just expect me to say "I'm actually pregnant now!". Those nosy idiots. I used to just respond with a flat "Never!", but that was met with a lot of hostile frowns, so now I fake smile and say waving my finger "Someday...someday.....", just to get them off my backs.
I had two "when?" comments yesterday and one already today, even though it's only 9:30am. It's really starting to irk me. I can understand grandparents and close friends wondering, but come on, every grocery store clerk, person in yoga class and third cousin removed? It's just too much. Each time I'm asked is just a little reminder of what is wrong and quite honestly, I'd much prefer to focus on the things that are right.
In our society, having one child is almost seen as a disorder. You might want to read THIS article that I came across last night @ Parent Dish, that talks about it. Truly, even I am guilty of wondering in the past, why would parents stop at just one? I had a few singleton friends growing up and in the young mind of my early 20's, can remember thinking back about them and wondering why. My theories always revolved around some tragic scenario...infertility, lack of money, divorce, insanity. It was to me, that decisions to have just one child was something to be sad about and it never had dawned on me that it could just be.......*GASP*.... by choice!
Over the past year, I've worn an invisible cape, spun by myself with the words "unnurturing", "unfeminine", "ice cold", "different to fault", "selfish", "bad mother" and "screw up" on my back. I've been believing people must see me as all of these negative adjectives and that they must be true of a girl who only wants one child. I can't tell you how much this cape has bothered me, because before, I has always thought of myself as the exact opposite. I worry that the outside world sees me like this, when inside, I know I can be incredibly nurturing. I'm searching and trying and working towards shedding my own perceptions. It's fine, I know the truth and the real me. You can have one child and still be a great Mom, I just think it may take time to accept that if this is what ultimately happens.
The funny thing that really gets me is that I truly love children.
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was use my imagination. I can vividly remember my seven ponies and the seven babies that rode the ponies with me down the street. I would take care of them, all fourteen. Some had bottles, some had pudding, all needed hugs and barrettes in their hair. I was nurturing from the beginning. From about the age of 10, in the summers I would organize all of the younger children on the block and hold "Camp Sherwood". This was a 5 day summer camp that I would run with the help of my little brother and our friend Ben. I loved every moment of it, a line of little waddling kids behind us, running them, through sprinklers and on backyard nature walks. Thinking back, the parents must have loved it, 5 mornings of free childcare! I went on to become a babysitter extraordinaire! There are few things that I am good at, but I have to say making kids laugh and have fun while babysitting was one of them. From age 11 on, even into college, I would babysit, sometimes even full time in the summer. I just loved kids. Newborns, toddlers, elementary and middle school, I liked all of the ages. After college, I wanted to go back to school to get a teaching degree and decided to substitute teach for a while, just to make sure it's what I wanted to do. I really enjoyed the special education classrooms and the English second language classrooms. These were kids at their most vulnerable, who just needed an encouraging word, a reassuring hug and a big high-five. It was amazing. After two years of subbing, I briefly worked as an assistant teacher in a toddler classroom before moving. It was a classroom, but also part of a daycare system, so I spent the day, 7:30-5:00, with 6 two year old boys and 2 little girls. That was really hard, but I have to say, still easier than parenting so far.
Ok, so my long winded point was that just because a person may choose to have one child, they can still love children, they can still be nurturing and not the weird, unmotherly, ice-queen that I worry people might see me as.
This weekend we went to see one of our friend's sweet little, 5 week old baby boy. He is such a cute kid and I just adore holding him. I've always had the bounce/sway/step thing down pretty well, so I don't mind holding someone's kid for a while. This little guy is tiny and sleepy and pleasant. I looked at him yesterday and couldn't help but think to myself, if he were Noah and this were 2004, in just 4 days, at six weeks old, this tiny kid would stand up and would almost never let us hold him again. How odd, I thought, the little guy I was holding barely moves around, he's such a cuddly baby bundle, but Noah, unlike any I have encountered so far, changed completely at 6 weeks. Once he realized he could grab out hands, straighten his legs and stand, he never ever wanted to sit down or be held, to lay in his crib, nor stroller or on the floor with toys really. He just always seemed....pissed off, when he he wasn't standing up, watching the world. He couldn't bear to miss a moment. He was the exact opposite of relaxed. Here is a picture of Noah at seven weeks standing up, and at eight weeks when we found how happy the exersaucer could make him. At ten weeks we bought the Jumperoo..... pure crazy infant joy, and at fourteen weeks, he felt like a cool dude when he learned he could stand alone for a few seconds. Oh yeah and this picture just because I like it.
This is just it though, this standing thing sums up our child and why, well, maybe one is all we can handle at the moment. The dude is fabulous, interesting, funny and INTENSE! He is the type of child that I believe in my heart of hearts, would benefit from my undivided attention for a while. He looks for constant stimulation and learning and needs a little extra, but loving discipline and guidance. He is a lot like me already. I remember the first time I read someone address ADHD as a positive in the world of personalities and not just a negative, it made me so happy. I can see Noah's extra shot of energy, albeit draining, is a positive at times too. I want to be there 100% as his advocate, because I've already learned in his very first year of school, sometimes his intensity can set him apart and it's good that I can focus and work with his teachers and with him at home to insure an easier year.
Many are quick to point out that just because we have one high-intensity child doesn't mean we'll have another, but I think, why take the chance? To be quite frank, the past two and a half years have been very difficult ones and I just don't feel up to going through similar ones again. Maybe in a couple of years I'll reassess and revisit the idea of having a #2, and honestly, if Noah brought up the true desire for a sibling one day, I would definitely consider it for his sake, so I'm only 80%, not 100% sure just yet. Babies are so cute and all, but the whole feeding, diapering, burping, sleepless night thing just doesn't do it for me at the moment.
As for now, when I think about the future and being a parent to one child, I envision many nice things. For example, while I do believe that you must experience things at least once, like a family road trip across the U.S., I'm more from the "let's hop on a plane and go to Europe this summer." side, rather than the road trip to Disney thing. DON'T GET ME WRONG, I loved Disney World and can't wait to take Noah, but I think having one child sometimes equates to a little more expendable money and perhaps greater easy of getting around hence leading to a larger possibility of going on adventures near and far. I dream of showing Noah the world one day and learning myself along the way. My good friend was a singleton and when he was seven, traveled around the world with his mother. Ok, far fetched for me, but little snippets of adventure would just be fine. I just know this is most likely true for us, with all of life's money sucking responsibilities, house, taxes, car, food....having one kid would make it easier to do the extra things. Another plus that I see is down the road for us personally, is if we do feel that a private school might better suited to Noah's personality, then we would be able to send him. I like the public schools here and anticipate them being great for Noah, but at least the option is open. More selfishly, you know how a lot of women say "I'll never drive a minivan."? Well, I'm one of those women, but like, I mean it, I won't cave. Sorry. If Jon and I only end up with one child, I see myself being a room mother in elementary school and helping out if he chooses to do cub scouts. I see myself making art with Noah and cooking, chatting, rollerblading, and helping him to become the best, well rounded, positive and caring kid he can be. So I suppose not even the most frequent of inadequate feelings can squash these positive future plans.
I need to get past my own fear and pre-conceived ideas of what it means to be a parent who chooses to have one child. I need to take off that cape and feel ok with the decision we might ultimately make. Until society stops putting that kind of quiet stigma on such families and until random people stop asking "So when are you going to have another!?", it might be really difficult, but I'll try.