These days I find myself going back a few years—er—a lot of years. You see, I’ve got an Only Child—again. Only this time my Only Child is sixteen, not a baby. This time, the Only Child realizes he’s an only child. And this time, I’m trying really, really hard to treasure being the parent to an only child.
It’s taken me three years of college life to figure this out. I’m a slow learner. Our daughter is twenty. It’s her third year of college. She’s amazingly brilliant (aren’t they all?), fiercely independent (yours, too?), and still my baby. Cuddling is definitely out of the picture for this one, but she still initiates a call every so often. I pretend it’s because she cares about what’s going on in our world. I’m sure it’s because she needs something.
Twenty years ago, she was the Only Child. You know, the one you’d watch sleep on the couch. For an hour. Really—just watch her sleep. For an hour. Who had time for that? Maternity leave is SO underrated. She is the one I’d carry in that pouch they made in the ’80s for babies. I’m sure the pouches of today are ergonomic, handmade, and “green.” Mine wasn’t. I’m quite sure I acquired mine at Shopko. But mine let me take that Only Child wherever we wanted, and we wanted, so we did. We took her everywhere. No babysitters for us.
For three years, she was that Only Child. We shared poop and throw-up and teeth and walking and first words and the sandbox Daddy built. Every moment, we worked to make that moment precious. Every moment we treasured.
Then came #1 son. Actually, only son, but I still like to call him #1 son. I pretend it makes him feel special. I’m sure he’d rather I quit calling him names. Only Child days were over for our baby.
We got on to the task of nurturing and feeding and touching and teaching and all that stuff responsible parents do. We had two children, and ours was a fun life. One girl, one boy. One average nuclear family with smiles and frowns and giggles and tears. We got busy. We got distracted by one, tended to the other one, and did our best to balance. They’d bob, we’d weave. So the dance continued until children developed into young adults. One of those young adults moved on to college, and we had a new Only Child.
This one won’t lie on a couch for hours, except with a video game controller in his hand. I don’t want to carry him around anymore, either. He’s outgrown me, yet I may still have a weight edge on him. But we do toddle around together still. This time in a car, not a stroller. This time we talk about heavier stuff, not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And this time with this Only Child is just as precious.