Saturday, August 18, 2012

Only Children are A-OK!

I am an only child.

At this point, some who know me may crack wise about my reluctance to share dessert at a restaurant, or the unspoken but unwavering claim I lay to the remote controls in the apartment.  Some may see being an only child as a bad thing.  That it makes one...self-focused.

I think it makes one self-sufficient.

When I was a kid, I received a lot of board games as gifts.  Multi-player games, like Sorry! and Parcheesi.  And as an only child who hated other children, it was rare to find someone to play them with.  I recall my Uncle Tommy playing with me, and I'm sure my parents must have, but mostly, I remember playing these games by myself.  Or rather, with myself.  Or maybe even against myself.  At least I always won.

My husband is the youngest of three boys, and really appreciates having brothers.  For me, the main appeal of having siblings would be to relieve some of the pressure of caring for aging parents.  Having someone to consult/blame/cry to/drink with when the time comes to find a really good nursing home.  (Mom and Dad, consider this "writer's embellishment.")

Our son is seven weeks old, and already people ask if we're planning on having another one.  My knee-jerk response has been, "No, parenting is a young person's game," but then I gave it some serious thought.  Yes, it takes an enormous amount of energy to tend to a newborn's needs, and one must function on very little sleep, two attributes that were at their height when I was in college.  Also, recovery from childbirth- in my case, a c-section- is much more difficult than I expected, and a younger, firmer, more elastic body would likely have more success bouncing back.

But I did think about it.  And I determined I was 89% certain that one child is plenty for us.  My husband is 84% sure of the same.  I'm more sure, so I win...even though we're on the same team.

Being an only child has its payoffs in adulthood, though.

OK, I can't think of many of them right now, but I CAN say that being an only child has allowed my imagination to flourish.  Not just to flourish, but to...whatever is even more fabulous than flourishing.

Case in point:  our son wakes up in the middle of the night, and it sometimes takes a bit of walking, bouncing, and singing to get him back to sleep.  We have a nightlight in our bathroom that has what I initially considered to be a charming scene of animals camping.

But really, it's more than that.

Many a night I've explained to our child that the red fox in the sleeping bag had a little too much to drink, and doesn't even realize he's not sleeping inside the tent.  The deer is helping him conceal it from the grey fox by hiding the empty wine bottle behind him.  The poor grey fox has to do all the work, including gathering firewood, and will no doubt have to clean up that dirty plate (bottom left corner) and the unfinished can of beans outside the tent.  The poor grey fox is so busy doing everyone's work, he's unable to hold his own marshmallow stick, and has to plant it in the ground, because the deer hasn't offered to help.  The grey fox probably didn't even want to go camping in the first place.

See?  You probably thought it was just some animals camping.

And you probably have siblings.

I win.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

People are Crazy for Babies. In a Scary Way.

This really happened.

As our son is getting older (a whopping 6 weeks old, now), we've taken him more and more places.  We stick close to home, and our outings usually consist of dog walks or shopping trips for more diapers.  Or wine.

Last week, we took our baby out to dinner to celebrate my father's birthday.  As we expected, the baby got a little fussy here and there, so my husband and I took turns walking him around outside the restaurant while the other enjoyed dinner.  When it was my turn, I carried him out the front door, and past the tables of outdoor diners.

And that's when She stopped me.

She was close to 70 years old, sitting across from two gentlemen who were engrossed in their own conversation.  As I walked by, she stopped me, pointed to the baby, and said, "Excuse me.  May I?"

I obliged, turning so she could see his face over my shoulder.  She gazed longingly at him, saying the usual kind words about how beautiful he is, and how we should cherish every moment.

And then She got weird.

As she stared at the baby, she crossed her arms over her chest and said to me, "I can almost feel myself lactating."  (Go ahead and reread that part.)  She looked right at me and said, "I don't think you know what you have here."

I was a little offended, and still frozen by the image of geriatric lactation.  Trying to be accommodating, I replied, "Oh, we know he's pretty special!  We love him a lot."  And I looked at the baby and did some nose kiss thing to prove my point.

Then she demanded, "Kiss him."

"Excuse me?"

"Kiss him," she said very seriously.  "Lean down and give him a kiss."

He's my baby, so I obliged.  Plus, she was elderly, and likely lonely, as those two men across the table were still ignoring her.

Then she directed, "Tell him you love him."

I thought it was a little strange, but for some reason, I was willingly compliant to her strange demands.  I leaned down to the baby and, in a baby-friendly voice, said, "I love you!  I love you! Yes, I do!"

"NO!" she said.  "Whisper it to him.  Like you mean it."

"Oh, I mean it," I said.

Who was this woman to tell me I didn't MEAN it?  What did I have to do to prove to her that I meant it?  And WHY did I feel like I had to prove my love for my baby to a total stranger?

"Tell him again."

Sigh.  So I did.  I stood there and followed this stranger's orders.  I let her direct me in the middle of a crowded restaurant patio.  It was a one woman show (with an adorable prop) for an audience of one, as those men still weren't paying any attention to what was happening. After a few more instructions, she finally told me to give the baby a kiss from her, and I knew it was time to end the show.

Why had it been so difficult to leave? I'd stood there for a good eight minutes, kissing and cooing at my baby, following my captor's orders.  I was like Patty Hearst with Stockholm Syndrome.  Am I that much of an actor, that I felt I had to perform?  Was I pimping out my child for the entertainment of the elderly?  And if so, is that a bad thing?  After all, she seemed lonely.

You know, those men sitting at her table never looked over during that whole exchange.  They never got to see how cute the baby is.  But mostly, they didn't do anything to save me.

Maybe I was the one saving them.