Julie Green: The Other Side of the Coin


Is it Unfair to Have an Only Child?

To Have or to Have Not

I'm indecisive. It's something of a fatal flaw with me, and unfortunately that spreads to my parenting. Every now and then and, at the strangest times, I lose my resolve. Like the other day, when a barista and I started chitchatting about our respective kids. After revealing that I 'only' have a son, she asked when I was having more children. Sigh.

Oddly, my resolve is stronger when the siblings debate comes up with family. I'm 99 percent sure I'm having just one child. Then some total stranger like the barista comes along and has an unnerving power to unsettle me. 

As an only child myself, I'll be the first to admit being an 'only' isn't the tragedy a lot of people make it out to be. I may have been shy growing up. But then, I had a security blanket: a cousin who lived nearby and was often around to play dolls or dress-up or whatever. A pseudo-sister—without the competition and cat fights that come with sharing parents and living under the same roof.

My son has no such cousins. I work hard to make friendships on his behalf. He's three. But the picture is complicated by the fact that he's high-functioning autistic. Friendships are not exactly his forte. He has to learn to socialize even if it is like pulling teeth. Given that he doesn't seem to care one way or another about people other than his parents, will he mind being an only? Will he grow to resent me for denying him a sibling?

Would a younger sister or brother look out for him on the playground, and vice versa? Or years from now when his parents are no longer around? Not a legitimate reason to bring a person into the world, I know. But I'm sure it crosses the minds of many parents, both with and without special needs children.

The first two years of his life (before he was diagnosed) were hard. I was depressed and exhausted. I'm still exhausted, yet part of me longs for another crack at it. If only to have a different experience. 

A friend with two kids—a three-year-old and a four-month-old—admitted she hadn't yet seen the silver lining of multiples. Her husband is virtually estranged. Still, she remains hopeful the payoff will come, eventually. I hope for her sake that it does, with her marriage intact.

In this crazy process I discovered a funny thing: I really like kids. Would having a second child heal some old wounds or simply re-open them, I wonder. Or will I live to regret that nagging one percent?