One & Done

Can I have a brother? Actually, no.  Credit: Daydreams Girl

Can I have a brother? Actually, no.
Credit: Daydreams Girl

Out of the blue last weekend, apropos of basically nothing I could immediately ascertain, my 7-year-old announced that he wanted a brother. Or a sister. He’d take either, he informed me a bit wistfully as he squatted by a blueberry bush. He just wanted a sibling. And if I could produce one now, that’d be nice, thanks.

We’d been out picking blueberries at a local farm. Berry-picking on a Sunday morning being my best response to the perpetual I-have-no-flippin’-clue-how-to-entertain-my-kid-today dilemma that every parent who’s not indentured to a kids sports team confronts when they forget to make weekend plans. So when my dad texted me to see if we wanted to go pick berries with him and my mom, I grabbed at his invitation like it was the last ‘copter out before the fall of Saigon. Take me please!!

As we’d wandered up and down the rows of neatly planted bushes, looking for the darkest, ripest berries and dropping them into our buckets, I’d gotten lost in the zen-like, meditative quality of the pluck-n-drop, pluck-n-drop, pluck-n-drop of berry picking. So my son’s sudden request caught me totally off-guard. Of course, the kid always wanted something. Like every kid I knew, mine had a major case of the Gimme’s. But this wasn’t like the garden-variety pleas I usually got for Hot Wheels cars and water blasters and every Beyblade ever made.

Not that Fletcher had been the first to make such a request. Oh, noooooo. I’d been fielding questions about when Fletcher would be getting a sibling since before the kid was potty trained. The moment he turned 2, it seemed, there was an immediate pile on of When? When? When? from all quarters. As if some biological timer had gone off that everyone could hear but me. Apparently, two years was long enough to gain some equilibrium in the parenting department, so um, Batter up! Let’s go for Number 2.

My standard reply to these really-not-your-business questions would typically alternate between “We don’t want to have more kids than we can afford to send through graduate school” and “Well, maybe if we’d started earlier …”

I was just six weeks shy of 40 when Fletcher was born and three weeks past my 47th birthday when he made this particular grab for a sibling. I know that thanks to the wonders of reproductive science, women even in their late 50s have babies these days. And hey, if you wanna be pushing 80 at your kid’s college graduation, have at it. I hope that in the excitement of watching your child receive a diploma, you don’t fall over your walker and break a hip. Meanwhile, as far as I was concerned, my factory produced a single model and was hereby closed to business.

I was plenty comfortable with that. Earlier this week, a TODAYMoms.com survey came out with the news that moms of three reported far and above more stress than moms of one, two or even four-plus kids. Not that it’s a contest, but believe me, I stressed enough for all 7,000 moms in that survey just having my one. I’d resigned myself to the fact that I would undoubtedly sleep the rest of my nights with one ear cocked for the sniffled cries of Mommy? Mommy! … and ceded the luxury of being permitted to pee solo (even at 7, my son still feels the need to “chaperone” me in the loo) … and relinquished precious DVR space, first to Sesame Street and Word World episodes, and now to a collection of Disney Channel and Cartoon Network shows … and given up any hope of ever again reading the New York Times on Sunday in peace. But even as I cradled my son as an infant, I knew I wanted at least half a shot of getting some of my grownup, pre-mommy life back, at least in the form of a work day that wasn’t disrupted first by changing diapers and now dictated by homework, and a social life that didn’t revolve around play groups and birthday parties … unless said parties involved attractive consenting adults, condoms and some lube.

Besides, I was well-acquainted with the sturm und drang that even one more child could bring. Though my sister and I are incredibly close now — the best of friends who live just a quick 12-minute drive from each other — for much of our childhood, we fought our own bloody version of the Civil War, then approximated the frosty Cold War relations for the early part of our adult life. I honestly don’t know how our mother withstood the chaos we two wrought. I am not a particular fan of chaos. I wasn’t eager to gamble on having World War III unfold in my house just because I had a momentary bout of baby fever. So, my husband and I had one and firmly decided we were done.

That was one of the key reasons I’d wanted my son growing up near my sister’s kids, who I hoped would come to feel more like brothers than cousins. But considering all the time he spent playing with his older cousins, it never occurred to me that my son might miss having a sibling of his very own.

“What made you think about having a brother or sister?” I asked my boy gently.

“I just saw a brother and sister running up and down the hill,” he said softly. “And I thought, If I had a brother or sister, they could do that with me. I want someone to play with me.”

“Oh, Sweet Pea, I’ll play with you,” I said quickly, brightly, hoping to ease the sting of not being able to have the one thing I honestly could not give him. “I’ll be your playmate.”

“You’re always working,” he said, crossly.

Ouch. I do work a lot. It’s true. But ouch. Besides, if I was honest, running up and down a hill wasn’t exactly what I’d call fun.

“You know –” I tried to salvage the situation with a little logic of my own. “If you had a brother or sister, you’d have to share your toys.”

“Then can I have an older brother or sister?” he asked, hopefully, not missing a beat. “If they’re older, they won’t want my toys,”

I was both touched and tickled by his reasoning. Seriously, this kid is gonna be some kind of logistics expert one day. He is always trying to figure out a workable solution.

I thought about explaining the impossibility of pulling off a back-to-the-future maneuver that would allow me to go back in time and have another baby that would then become his older sibling. But that wasn’t really the point.

My boy wanted something — badly — that was beyond my ability to give him. There are lots of things I have no problem saying No to — more Hot Wheels, more Beyblades, more Minecraft, more video games of any stripe, actually. But though there aren’t enough squeezable, dimpled baby cheeks to lure me back to the Diaper Genie days, it still made my heart ache to have to say No to this.

So I did what any mom does to soothe over sadness. I offered something sweet. Fresh-baked blueberry muffins, to be precise, to be made when we got home with the bucket of fresh berries we’d just picked. And I pinky-promised that next weekend, I’d come up with a less lame play date than picking fruit at a farm with mom, so that my son would really have someone to play with.

A version of this essay was published on Lifescript’s Health Bistro blog on May 10, 2013.

 

Double-Shot Tuesdays — June 23rd Edition

282238_shot_glasses1 It’s Tuesday, and that means … time to dip into the blog archives for a double shot of some old favorites from back in the day — before I discovered the beauty and the power of the Share button.

Last night as my friend Jordan was helping me navigate the intricacies of social networking sites, he asked me, “So how’d you come up with your blog name?” Oddly, he hasn’t been the only one to ask me that in recent days, so in honor of The Ever- Helpful Jordan, who thankfully works for  brownie slabs and advice about girls, and for other curious readers, here’s how my blog came to be named Don’t Put Lizards In Your Ears … because, in fact, not everybody’s old enough to know better.

What’s With That Blog Name?

Don’t put lizards in your ears.

Who would, right? I mean, that’s a pretty weird thing to say. Good advice, but a bit incongruous. And really, how often do those words actually come together in conversation? In my experience … uh, never. But I’m finding that as a new mom — and a late-in-life mom at that — I say a whole lot of things to my 2-year-old son, Fletcher, that I never — not in all my wildest college-era hallucinogenic-fueled dreams — thought would tumble out of my mouth. Read more …

[What’s the most bizarre thing that you’ve ever said to your kid? Post a comment or email me!]

Meanwhile, while we were flying home from Denver last week, Fletcher commandeered my laptop to watch Stuart Little, which gave me a chance to catch up on my New York magazines. (Truly, the bathroom and the cabin of an airplane are the only places I can read in peace these days … though I don’t recommend an airplane cabin bathroom!) I was transfixed by Jeff Coplon’s “Five-Year-Olds At The Gate,” about the incredible lack of public school seats available for the city’s exploding kindergarten population. A close friend recently told me that her youngest had gotten wait-listed at several public kindergartens and she wasn’t sure what would happen come Fall. “What am I paying taxes for?” she wondered. All of which made me grateful that, much as I miss it, we don’t live in New York anymore … and that I only have one child to worry about getting into school. Even as one of my cousins is contemplating having a third, once again, here’s why one’s absolutely enough for me.

One

When I got married the first time, I don’t think the wedding band was on my finger 15 minutes before my father asked, “So when am I going to have a grandchild?” Well, 12 years, one divorce and another wedding later, he finally got a grandson. And barely a year later, I started getting from all quarters, “So, when are you going to have another one?”

Huh? Are you kidding me?!?! I’m still adjusting to this one.

My standard reply alternates between “We don’t want to have more kids than we can afford to send through graduate school” and “Well … maybe if we’d started earlier …” Yes, I’m aware that women in their late 50s are having babies, thank you Aleta St. James. Hey, if you wanna be pushing 80 at your kid’s college graduation, go for it … and I hope that in the excitement of watching your progeny receive a diploma, you don’t trip over your walker and break a hip. But, as far as I’m concerned, this factory produced a single model and is hereby closed to business.  Read more …

[What’s your ideal family size? Post a comment or email me!]

One

When I married my first husband, I don’t think the wedding band was on my finger 15 minutes before my father asked, “So when am I going to have a grandchild?” Well, 12 years, one divorce and another wedding later, he finally got a grandson. And barely a year later, I started getting from all quarters, “So, when are you going to have another one?”

Huh? Are you kidding me?!?! I’m still adjusting to this one.

My standard reply alternates between “We don’t want to have more kids than we can afford to send through graduate school” and “Well … maybe if we’d started earlier …” Yes, I’m aware that women in their late 50s are having babies, thank you Aleta St. James. Hey, if you wanna be pushing 80 at your kid’s college graduation, go for it … and I hope that in the excitement of watching your progeny receive a diploma, you don’t trip over your walker and break a hip. But, as far as I’m concerned, this factory produced a single model and is hereby closed to business.

Still, every few weeks someone — someone who’s usually 10 years younger than me — asks, “Are you ready for number two?” Or “Don’t you want to have another baby?” Or “Wouldn’t it be nice if Fletcher had a sister?”

This last wistful thought came from my nanny as she was reorganizing my cup cabinet. We’re transitioning from sippy cups to cups with straws — part of our proactive plan to avoid putting a Mercedes worth of orthodontics in Fletcher’s mouth later on. I wanted to ditch the sippy cups altogether or at least pass them on to someone else who could use them.

“No, save them,” my nanny objected. “You could have another baby.” She looked at me slyly. “Maybe a little girl. Think of the pigtails. The freckles.”
Trust me, I have thought of the pigtails and the ribbons and the dresses and the dollies. [See Boy Toys ] Though it would be nice to play dress up with a little girl, I’m still not having another one. Period. This is because —

A) We’ve rolled the genetic dice and were immensely relieved to come up with a healthy kid, and it’s doubtful that as our eggs and sperm age, the fates will smile on us again.

B) I’m basically selfish. Having resigned myself to the fact that I will sleep the rest of my nights with one ear cocked to the sniffled cries of Mommy? Mommy! and given up the luxury of ever being able to pee alone, not to mention ceding precious DVR space to Sesame Street and Word World episodes, I’d like half a shot of getting some of my grownup, pre-mommy life back in the form of a work day that isn’t interrupted by changing diapers and picking up children from nursery school and a social life that doesn’t revolve around playgroups …unless said group involves attractive consenting adults, condoms and lube.

Hmm, maybe that sounds a tad defensive. But when did one’s kid count become anyone else’s affair, anyway? I never ask — in fact make a point of not asking — other couples with one child if they’re planning more or childless couples for that matter if they’re planning any for the simple reason that you never know if your innocent question will up open up a whole big can of hurt. One of my girlfriends was nearly brought to tears when a casual acquaintance thoughtlessly (callously in my opinion) asked “Is one really enough for you?” The jab was especially sharp because at the time my friend was knocking herself out trying to get knocked up with Number Two… and failing miserably. No, one child wasn’t enough for her …though she didn’t need to be reminded of it by a near-stranger.

So, maybe we could dial down the “Are you going to have another baby? Are you? Are you? ARE YOU? When?” Or at least not challenge our curt “No, we’re done” with “Are you sure? Really sure? You might change your mind later.” George W. might be remembered as a thoughtful, effective president, but I highly doubt it.

This is why I really do know that even though reproductive technology might allow me to have babies well into my fifth decade, we won’t be doing an encore: It took me decades — decades! — to come around to the idea of having even one child. I vacillated more than Hamlet on the Have A Baby/Don’t Have A Baby question — and twice took the bail-out option guaranteed by Roe v Wade … and suspenders-and-belted it on more than one occasion with the “morning after pill.”

Back in my younger years, whenever a friend told me she was pregnant, my hearty Mazel Tov! barely concealed bewilderment that anyone would want to get off the career track just as they were gaining traction. But a decade later — about the time when Stewart’s best friend and old college roommate called to let us know that he and his wife were having a baby girl — I was surprised to find my hardcore stance softening. My unguarded heart lurched at our friends’ news. A baby! I want one! suddenly flashed in my brain.

Of course, I wanted a lot of things — a brownstone in Brooklyn, a collection of Manolo Blahniks, a National Magazine Award, the ability to eat a fudge brownie sundae without it immediately showing up on my butt and thighs. But since babies pretty much come with a no-return policy, I also wanted to tread carefully to be sure I wouldn’t later suffer buyer’s (parent’s?) remorse. So I waited and pondered as Stewart and I tried to figure out whether our relationship would go the distance. Meanwhile, friends continued to pop up periodically with announcements that — Mazel Tov! — they were expecting. And though happy for them, my hearty Mazel Tovs barely concealed a tiny quiver of sadness and regret that I didn’t have similar news to report.

Fast forward past that divorce and second wedding, and now it’s nearly two and a half years since Stewart and I finally had our One. I know he is our Only because I recently heard from a girlfriend, who’d similarly been straddling the baby fence. She called to tell me that she was expecting Number Two. And in my hearty Mazel Tov there was no longing … only joy …for her.