Part one in a three-part series on why families should not have more than one child.
Cristie and I decided to have a child because we were bored with each other, and ourselves. Mid-thirties, me writing, she teaching, both of us wondering, is this all there is? Not, probably, a good reason to have a child. But then, why else do people have kids?
And then there was a time, when Scout was two or three, when Cristie and I considered having another.
We had to consider it, because everyone we knew, it seemed, was demanding that we consider it. People who wouldn't dare to advise you on what mechanic to hire, which kind of margarine to use or whether that shirt makes you look fat, will leap to tell you: You have to have another kid.
However Tenenbaumian their own royal families, their certainty is Biblical and their concern is sincere.
And so you can't help but consider their point of view.
And we did. And did. And did.
And then Scout turned about five. And people stopped telling us to have another kid. Maybe some of them whispered to each other what a shame it was that we'd had only one. But they stopped saying it out loud.
And when strangers on playgrounds and soccer fields asked us that loaded-for-bear question, "Is Scout your only one?" I began to reply with a quip.
"Yeah," I say. "Every family seems to have one good kid and one bad kid. We had the good one. We figured, 'Why have the bad one?'"
Which, because they usually have one bad one, usually shuts them up.
Perhaps it's a process of self-justification. Certainly that's part of it. But as Scout gets older, I find more and more reasons why people should absolutely not have more than one kid.
So far, I have found three. I'll share them this week, in ascending order of importance. Though they may be seized upon by the parents of multiple children as just the kind of unwelcome advice they once gave us, I offer it as comfort to parents of only children who are being told that two kids was one of the Ten Commandments.
First: The arguments for having more than one kid are melodramatic or old-fashioned or both.
The only child will be self-centered. Yes, that would be true if we didn't live in a world of daycare in which two-year-olds are now more thoroughly socialized than the 30-year-olds of yesteryear.
The only child will remember her childhood as one long rainy day spent watching drops of water streak down the window pane. Despite the best efforts of my little sister Piper, I remember being bored much more often than I've ever seen Scout bored. Even on the rainiest of rainy days: Children's TV is profoundly better and constantly available, there's the Internet … and there's Mom and Dad, who when all else fails, do feel compelled to get out the fucking Candyland. I also believe that only children develop more elaborate fantasy worlds than kids in crowded famlies, but since I can't prove that, I'll leave it alone.
Someday, the only child will be all alone at her parents' deathbed. I really do hope that by the time she enters adult orphanhood, Scout has found a cousin or a buddy or a lover with whom she can fully share life's most profound moments. Yes, I am glad I had my sisters when my parents died. But creating a human life to keep my child company at a future funeral—this seems overprotective.
Tomorrow, I'll give reason the second reason for having an only child: I want her to know the real me.