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.

14 comments:

Biby Cletus said...

Cool blog, i just randomly surfed in, but it sure was worth my time, will be back

Deep Regards from the other side of the Moon

Biby Cletus

matt said...

I was hoping you guys were going to have like 7 children.... Then you could drive a short bus to get around. Just thought that would be fun.

twinsplus1 said...

Ok Lauren, I am so glad that you being honest and telling the world how you feel. All those times we talk I am forever spewing about standing up for what you believe...congrats for that. No one can tell you what is right for you. Never sway on that, ever. And anyone who makes you feel guilty about that or any other choice does not have your best interest at heart. I am always here to listen and I thank you for teaching me some important things along the way! Love you xoxo

Lauren said...

Thank you biby Cletus, it is always so exciting to get greetings from the other side of the moon!

Goldie, how did you know I've always wanted to drive a short bus?! No, actually, wouldn't that been like, even bigger than a minivan?

Andrea, THANK YOUUUUUU! I need to be thanking you for teaching me not to always be worried about speaking the truth!
Btw/ sorry, you honestly have the prettiest minivan, I just can't drive such a big vehicle. I think they have super cool features and make much more sense than my little car. It's nothing personal, I just can't see myself in say..a pick-up either. It's just a thing I have.

Kendra Lynn said...

There are many days when I think,
"Wow..it would be nice to just have ONE kid...". OF course, I immediately feel guilty, because I would have to choose between my two...and that is impossible.
Its okay to only have one. Have fun with Noah...and just be honest with those who ask the ineveitable question. Honesty is the best policy (as my dad would say).
Miss you.

Kendra

Lauren said...

Hi Kendra!
Thanks, I'm with your Dad, honesty is the best policy. :) Sometimes it's hard to admit something like parenting stressing you out. I can't imagine how hard it was for you to have Merry and Kelsey so close together, but seeing the two of them, such sweet sisters, must make it all worth it!
I miss you guys too. Let's e-mail and catch up on what our summer schedule is looking like. :)

Jeremy said...

Seriously,

People are on your case about when you're having number two?

That's kind of rude. I wonder what Stephanie Tanner has to say about that....

HOW RUDE!

Magdalena said...

I would just look really serious and respond with "I'm barren" to anyone who had the balls to get on my case about having more kids. People ask me constantly if I am going to "try for a girl" and I feel like asking why they think I'm not happy with my three boys or why they feel my family would be more complete if I had a girl.
I think maybe I've asked you if you planned on having more, but never with pressure and never did I think you were weird or an "ice queen" for not wanting any more.
You are right about all of the elements of parenting that you will be so present for with Noah- all of the volunteering and the personal, one-on-one attention. It's all something that I sadly cannot offer my kids all that much of. They each get a fraction of my whole attention. It isn't right or wrong; its just different. I envy peope who have the time to do those things without feeling like they are somehow neglecting one or the other. See? I have my own guilt about having three. I think more than guilt about the number of children we have, mothers in general are just quick to accept guilt as their title and it just isn't right. As mothers, we do it to ourselves AND to other mothers whether we realize it or not. The fact is, no family situation is always going to be completely perfect and we need to stop trying to make our lives and our actions as mothers perfect. They aren't, they won't ever be, and that is perfectly okay. Charming, even.

Judy said...

Girl, you do not EVER have to explain yourself. I think you are doing a better than fabulous job with Noah - he is such an awesome little guy!

I had many of the same dreams as you when Travis was little - and then came the oops/Tyler. Not that I'm complaining at all, but I do have those "I wonder what it would be like to just have one" moments.

And that's okay, too.

And, as long as you're planning some trips there, how about coming down here? Free room and board!!!!

Lauren said...

You guys are amazing. Seriously, Jeremy, Bree, Judy, awesome. Stephanie Tanner would def. call it rude Jeremy. From now on, when somebody asks, I'll just say "be quiet you geekburger, nerd bomber!".

Bree, once again you have me peeing in my pants with your suggestions. Thanks for the honest input, you are right, gosh, the questions must never end. Yeah, so, right, are you going to try for a girl?

Judy! I didn't know you had those same kind of thoughts of a singleton with Travis. I bet Tyler on makes things more happy and exciting. It must have been a big transition for you to go from being a happy little family of three, kind of know the path you were on to having a new newborn! Thank you also for your honesty as always. :) Ok, and yeah, I'll be getting my ticket! Will you take us to Shlitterbaun!? (sp?)

rachelle said...

why is it that society thinks that 2 is a perfect number? they look at you weird when you have just one, and people with more than 2 get the whole "well, they must be catholic" look. ugh.
as a new mom, i hear you on the whole "just looks mad" when he's not exploring or if you hold him. my drew hates it and now hates sleeping now that he can squawk and play with things. one question for you... you put noah in the jumperoo at 10 weeks? i cannot wait to bring out the jumperoo, but thought we'd have to wait until 4 months (drew is 13 weeks). we've broken out the exersaucer at 10 weeks, but he just pushes and jumps off the bottom. when do you suggest he go into the jumperoo?
oh and btw, i'm one of sarah's berkley friends.

Judy said...

Lauren - OF COURSE I'll take you guys to Schlitterbahn! Noah would LOVE all the activity there! And, you'll have to come to my favorite coffee shop as well - they have a HUGE fenced in backyard that the kids can run and scream in - it is PERFECT!

Jeremy said...

have mercy.

Laura said...

I'm sorry that I'm kinda late in responding. But, I've said it once and I'll say it again. There is nothing wrong with only having one child especially when you have such of a high quality little guy like Noah. I can totally understand about you wanting to be there 100% for him and I think that's just wonderful and you're a great mother for that. That is one of my greatest worries with having two...how in the world am I going to have enough time to be there for both girls equally. I'm already guilty of telling Caitlin, "You'll have to wait until..." or "Not right now" because I have to do something with Cara. Noah's so lucky to have you all to himself. It is not selfish and you're not ice-cold. You just know what your son needs and you're concentrating on that, for the moment, or maybe forever. You shouldn't be shunned or looked down on, in fact girl, you should be praised!
Lauren, I love ya and thanks for speaking you mind. Whatever you decide to do about the "When" question, I know that you'll do what's right for you and your little family.