The "Only Child" Debate

My daughter is an only child. Technically she does have a biological half-brother but since she is the only kid who lives in our house, I think that makes her an only child. Apparently this practically offends some people. Even my veterinarian has informed me that I need to get my hands on another child tout de suite. “She needs a playmate!” I hear that quite a bit.

My other half and I did not set out to limit our family to one child. Nor did we want to be the next Waltons. Happenstance put us here.

We tried to do everything in the socially prescribed way (well, except for the part where we lived in sin). We met (I was in college, he was a Marine), we fell in love, we rented an apartment, we got a cat, we got another cat, we got married, we bought a house, he finished college, we got a dog, and then we got another dog. Then we waited for our baby to come.

We began trying to have a baby in 1998. One of these days I’ll take the time to chronicle my entire journey more thoroughly. But the short version is this: we lost four babies to miscarriage over a period of five years. After that, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the heck we wanted to do with ourselves. We had begun talking about adoption back in 2001 but weren’t sure which type of adoption we wanted to pursue. Finally, in the summer of 2004 we threw our proverbial hats into the ring at a local adoption agency. The short version of THAT story is that our beautiful baby girl was born in May of 2005 and at long last we were parents.

We’re now well into our 30s (with me being closer to 40 than 30 and him being right in the middle). The kid, she wears us out. But that’s not why A is an only child. Have you ever wished for something with all your might and then actually got it? You know how you were then hesitant to ask for anything else? That’s kinda how we feel. But still, it’s more complicated than that. Domestic adoption is expensive, risky, stressful, and a few other adjectives besides. We don’t think we have it in us to go down that path again.

So here we are, with our adorable kid.

After A was born it started to dawn on me that she would probably be the one and only. I started digging around and doing some research. The statistics are iffy but seem to indicate that, in general, only children score well on scholastic tests, tend to get good grades, and usually grow up to be successful adults. By the way, I was watching American Idol last night and was very interested to hear that THREE out of the four semi-finalists are only children. It does seem to fly in the face of the oft-told theory that only children are forlorn social misfits.

I also talked to some people I know who are only children. Some were happy with the way they were raised while others always longed for siblings.

While I didn’t set out to have only one child, I have to admit that I have a hard time related to people who have very large families. I always wonder how they can afford to send so many children to college. That is not to say that my daughter is getting a free ride when she heads off to school – she’ll be expected to hold a job while going to school. But still, we have a college fund for her and yes, there is money in it! We used to call it her “beer fund” because at first there was only enough in there to cover her beer consumption during her freshman year.

I should add that we have talked about the possibility of adopting an older child through the state at some point in the future (a child older than an infant but still younger than our daughter). But for now, we feel pretty confident that we can raise our daughter to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted even without siblings. Sure, it would have been great if things had gone differently and we had other amazing kids to hang out with the one we’ve got, but we don’t think we’re doing her a terrible disservice either.

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