It is the middle of the night and I am suddenly awake, my brain prodded to high alert by the words of the psychologist at a conference for Parents of Only Children.
He had said parents such as us, blessed as we may be with only one child, might feel that this is our one and only shot to do it right.
All our hopes, dreams, and aspirations pinpointed with laser precision on this one individual.
He’s right I think with the conviction one can only have at that hour of the night. There is no “do over” with only one child.
Concert pianist. Celebrity Chef. Federal Reserve Chairman, sorry Chairperson. Nobel Prize Winner. Leader of the Free World.
This is my one shot.
I’ve got to get on this right away. What was I thinking, letting my daughter waste these precious seven years indulging in pursuits of her own?
It is now 3:00 a.m. I contemplate getting on the Internet to start investigating right away the activities I could sign her up for. Then I could be ready with my list by morning and begin making calls first thing.
My mind is swirling with plans—Mandarin classes, private tutoring in math and science, chess, piano, tennis. I would definitely need an excel chart.
My sleeping husband irritates me. Gloriously unaware that we may be nurturing the next Gloria Steinem under our roof. Do I have to do everything?
Fate may have dealt her a sibling-less hand but there are advantages to being an only child. Never a need to compete for your parent’s attention. No need to say, “you love her/him more than me,” (saying it about the family dog just doesn’t carry the same weight).
Never having to share a room or beloved toy or dragged to siblings’ baseball games and school plays.
Then unbidden a picture slips into my supercharged minds. How she looks longingly at the neighbor’s kids with their built in companionship. Building sandcastles by her self at every beach vacation while close by brothers and sisters play Marco Polo.
She will never have that one other person in the world that really understands the entity that is her parents.
An only child can be a lonely station the psychologist had said, handing us a poem “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran:
“ … Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, yet they belong not to you,
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams … ”
Okay. Calm down. Take stock. Need to re-focus. Its only 6 a.m., not the end of the world.
Mr. Gibran’s right. She is going to have her unique burdens to bear and victories to celebrate. She may not be the next Tiger Woods or Marie Curie. And that is fine. Case closed.
Final note to self: keep in mind her prolific artistic output, reams of interpretive crayon and finger-paint depictions of animals, nature and people, all rendered with ferocious concentration. Ergo, can always harbor a secret desire to bring to the world the next Jackson Pollock.