Only You

As a treat for a week's worth of wise behavior, I take Boo to see fire stations on Fridays after school. It's Spring Break for Boo this week, so we've been indulging in several of these treasure hunts. (I know - it's not Spring yet. And no, I don't know why the school has it so early. Yes, they also have Good Friday and Easter Monday off.) We trekked for miles the other day, following the computer print-out. We built up an appetite!

So there we were, waiting for our bibimbap, when the manager comes over to chat. She asks if Boo is my only one. She nods knowingly and says "I guess he gets spoiled." I really wanted to proclaim, "NO! He's not! At all!" but I politely whimpered, "I try not to." Her parting words, her conclusion, as it were: "Very hard not to spoil."

Which leads me to ask, where did the notion that only children are spoiled come from? For me, it's very easy not to spoil him. With one, I have the energy and time to implement the tips and techniques I've gleaned from friends and books. With one, I have the focus to live by our philosophy about Family. I encourage him every day to be Christ-like. To instill in him that he can do all things through Him.

Maybe people have different ideas what "spoiling" a child means. To me, it's when the child doesn't have the appropriate sense of his place in the world, in society, in the family. Anyone who thinks more of themselves or treats others with disrespect, to me, is "spoiled." Yes, I gift him with way too many clothes and my house is like a toy factory. I know I have way too much stuff. How did this happen?? I guess one yard sale at a time! But. Here's the big caveat. I teach him to be polite, appreciative, thoughtful and careful. That he is still a child. We are the adults and we rule the roost, so to speak. By nature a one-child family has a different rules of engagement. We like that - we like that he has a bigger part in our exchanges. But Hubs and I never waiver on the notion that he is not in charge. I have a friend who has seven and just returned from Ethiopia with three more. And I bet she does all the good things I'm talking about. But she and I are very different creatures. I couldn't do what she does. My brain isn't programmed that way.

If you know me at all, or if you've been reading my blog, you might guess that I think things through carefully. My conclusions may not always be right, but boy, that wrong decision required a lot of thought! We thought of all the ifs. The supposes. The inevitables of having an Only.

Before Boo came to be with us, our case worker relayed to us a story of her own life. She and her husband had two grown children. As they reached the teen years and merged into maturity, she realized that she would miss having children in the house. She began to regret that they hadn't had a third. And here's her wisdom: at the time she was having children, she could only "do" two. She could not have guessed back then into the future what she would feel and so she cannot, will not regret it now. Maybe a somewhat obvious understanding, but one that came by after many years of living. And here's the bottom line for me: I, today, this person, have the comfort for being the mother of one child. I am barely the kind of mother I want to be, I don't want to stretch beyond my elasticity. I can only make decisions with the information that I have; I can't see the future. Regrets later? Maybe. Maybe not.

We ended up finding 11 fire stations that day. I could do that, with ease, with patience, with joy, with my Only.



AmyP said...

I've given this quite a bit of thought myself, as the mother of an only, but the oldest of six children growing up. Frankly, my mom did a better job than I am doing of raising us to be good people -- but I don't think that has anything to do with the number of children involved and everything to do with her and my aptitude for motherhood.

Aside from this, the primary difference in our families, is that growing up we were very much a "children should be seen and not heard" sort of family. I really don't object to this and like the idea of a child knowing his place in the family. I think there *is* a difference between parents and children and I think that's often easier to see in large families. (We also heard, "this family is NOT a democracy" quite a bit. =) )

Now, as I parent, I find it difficult to convey to my little one that he doesn't have all the rights and status that his father and I have. As a result, it's easy for him to believe that the world revolves around him.

After all that, I'm not sure I really have a point! =) Just that I've thought about it and found that I do struggle as the parent of an only to raise him with a good sense of community that I think would more naturally develop if we had a larger family. That said, I don't think it's a reason to consider changing our family. We are a very nice family of three.

AmyP said...

p.s. Is it bad netiquette for a comment to be longer than the original post? I think perhaps it is... =)

blackbelt said...

AmyP, I don't know about the netiquette but on my blog, your comment can be as long as you'd like!

I'm glad that you like the "conversation."

mamawhelming said...

I like the whole post!

Grace said...

All I'm gonna say is that I think finding 11 firehouses with my mom would be a blast! And a forever memory!

Julie said...

People continually ask if we will adopt a third. A THIRD?!?!?! Ack. The thought of that makes me want to go screaming down the street pulling my hair out. So I completely understand where you are with wanting an only. You can only do what you can do. And only you and your husband know what is right for you. When Sarah was my only it was a lot easier. I had the energy to give full force to her. I think she benefited from the time I gave her before Emily came along. Though now I can't imagine life without Emily. But she missed out on things that I did for Sarah. The second is not double the work. It is far more than that.

On the thought of being spoiled, I think that it is the parents who determine whether a child is spoiled. My mom is an only and was far from spoiled. My father has a brother and is the most spoiled person I know. So I think that only spoiled child thing is hooey.

PS I owe you an email still. Thanks for the lovely emails you have sent me. It is nice to hear from someone who has been there and "gets it."

Lora said...

We talk a lot about the subject of spoiling at home and at work.

We do NOT spoil Jacob. In fact, he has much less than most children we know but he is happier. Funny how that works. Oh, and we are totally "mean" too.

At work there is a consensus that "indulging" a child is wrong. Saying yes to everything, rewarding all good behavior with food/toys/money/whatever, being fickle with the rules, etc. Giving YOUR everything (not giving everything) to your child(ren) and keeping firm rules and schedules and making sure that your child(ren) know you are the most important (but not only!!) thing in your life is the best gift you can give to a child.

It's harder to do that when you have more than one child, sure, but no less important.

Thank you for this post.

astonied said...

That was an excellent post. Now come and get my kids...all of them...and in 2.4 hours you will be able to totally once and forever be certain you have done the right thing! I dare you!

Third Mom said...

Wonderful post. As for spoiling, we spoiled our kids rotten, and they're the most amazing wonderful kids you could ever want to know.

I suppose by most of the parenting yardsticks I'm a failure in this area, but my gut has always said love first, worry about the possibilities of spoiling later. In our case, "later" never really came.