Part two in a three-part series on why families should not have more than one child.
And here's the second reason I'm glad I had an only child: I want her to know the real me.
I've often quoted my late pal Ed Reardon—father of four—who told me there is no such thing as parenting. Your kids just watch you for 18 years, he said. If you're good, that's good. If you're bad, that's bad.
Well if that's true, and I believe it is, then I want the person my kids to see to be me, and not a logistics-obsessed, vacation-sacrificing, money-panicked, bank-robbing, overwhelmed, friendless, humorless, exhausted Parent Person.
Because we have been so selfish as to have only Scout, she sees us at play. I often take her golfing with me and while I putt, she collects acorns and chases catch dragon flies. That works with one kid, not with two—as does an afternoon of kicking around town with Mom. Because we have been so selfish, she sees me write, watches us read. She sees us sleep and work out and cook big meals and drink beer on the porch with neighbors and visitors from out of town. She watches me ride off on adventures on my motorcycle and she watches her mother utterly relax with her family in Des Moines. Because I have been so selfish, she has been to many places that we could not have afforded to take two or more kids, and she'll see many more—and she'll see us enjoying those places and living life in much the same way as we lived it before she came along, and will live it when she is out of the house.
Obviously, I'm drawing a caracture of parents of two kids, but the caricature is based on an observation that, if you have two kids you might as well have five. And if you have more than two kids, as a friend put it, "Now you're playing zone."
And I'm also I'm glorifying the wonders of these wonderful lives Cristie and I lead. Hemingway and Gelhorn we're not. But Cristie and Dave, we still definitely are.
Meet me back here tomorrow, when I argue that, in families of multiple kids, the squeaky wheel gets the grease—but every wheel needs the grease!
I’m not sure if you have two kids you might as well have five, although my wife sometimes tries to convince me of that. We have two, and I’m steadfastly holding to that. Like you (and probably parents of any number of kids), I have some carefully thought out reasons (validation?) for holding my particular line.
The Two-And-No-More argument for me is primarily a logistical one. I figure if I have two kids I have a hand for each to hold. But if I had three, there’d always be one roaming about and wandering out into traffic or over a cliff or something – which may be character building exercises for them, but experience to-date tells me that fewer trips to the ER is better for everyone in the long run. And if we have more than two then we, as parents, are outnumbered. Then there’s the simple reality that our house only really has room for two kids and we can’t afford a bigger one. I suppose we could get some bunk beds and stack ’em up like firewood. But I lived that reality as a kid and can tell you it’s not as fun as it appeared in the Brady Bunch and My Three Sons. And besides, our little Honda doesn’t have room for another booster seat and I doubt we’d get far with one of them strapped to the roof.
There was a time when I could quite happily have stuck with just the one kid. But then I met the second one and 18 months later I don’t think I can imagine it without him. But that’s it. Stopping there.
David Murray says
Thanks for your comment here, Rueben. It’s a thoughtful version of what I used to impatiently tell a pilot pal who chided me for not having more than one: “Hey man, you watch your instruments and I’ll watch mine.”
Which is of course exactly how I feel. I see happy people coming from families of hordes, and I see them coming from small families. And haunted, lonely people coming from both, too.
I actually wrote this out of a gathering surprise that I could construct as plausible an argument (to my way of thinking, anyway) for having one kid, as for having more.
I hope you’ll look in tomorrow and weigh in on what I think is my most powerful argument for having only one.
Terri Cavanaugh says
You sound like Oprah, who has no children, tell people how to raise kids. She should not speak about things she has not lived. Same for you, you should not speak about raising two or more children when you have not done it. Although I have two wonderful children, I don’t consider myself to be a “logistics-obsessed, vacation-sacrificing, money-panicked, bank-robbing, overwhelmed, friendless, humorless, exhausted Parent Person.”
And one of my favorite things to do with my kids is to kick around the city with both of them, not that difficult to do really. I also enjoy having my kids watch me read, read to themselves and to each other. One of the best things to see is them becoming the best of friends, just like my sister and I.
It’s great that being a parent of a single child works for you, but doesn’t mean you have to speak so unkindly of people who choose to have more than one. Just as it’s not right for people to say or think unkindly of you and Cristie for only having one.
David Murray says
Sorry if I hurt your feelings, Terri. Even more sorry if I sounded like Oprah. Neither was intended, I can assure you.