ONLY ONE. LONELY ONE? The Regrets of Having an Only Child

Only One. Lonely One.

As a woman and mother over 50, I’ve found myself looking back to examine some of the crossroads in my life. I wrote this post a couple years ago, but I think it’s a story that many only-child moms out there can relate to. 

With only one child to focus on, my “empty-nest syndrome” arrived quickly and hit me hard. As crossroads go, this one was pretty significant. As I look back, though, I remind myself that being a mom (to one kid or many) continues to be my greatest joy.

 

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With only a few remnants of my daughter’s childhood remaining in her Barbie-pink bedroom, it’s hard for me to find the right words to express my feelings on this night before she literally moves into adulthood.

It’s so unlike me to get all teary-eyed at the thought of Lanie growing up and moving out, but here I am with tears on my cheeks.

Every mother, at one time or another, worries that they haven’t given their child all the tools they need to lead a happy, successful life, away from her protection. My cross to bear is buried a little deeper in the regret that I never gave her a sibling.

My mom always warned me that if I was going to have children, I had to make sure I had at least two. She was an only child herself, and she hated it. Whenever my sister and I would fight, Mom would step in and remind us how lucky we were to have each other. My mom was right, I don’t know what I’d do without my sister today.

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At two, Lanie came running into the room to demand, “I want a baby sister, and I want one now!” My hubby and I laughed at the time, but deep down, I was anxious that she’d hate me forever if I didn’t comply.

I had planned to have more children but, as it so often does, life got in the way. Troubles in my marriage, a financial hardship and a serious injury thrown in for good measure pushed that dream out of reach.  Instead of a sibling, I’ve spent most of her life trying to mold her into a strong, independent woman who was as comfortable being alone as she was in a crowd.

It was tough when she was young. Even though she had a lot of friends, there were days when there was “no one to play with.” I’d remind her that she was lucky to choose her friends rather than be stuck with a younger brother or sister she was constantly fighting with, but she wasn’t buying it. She was sad and lonely, and I was pretty sure she thought it was all my fault.

I’ll admit to overcompensating by spoiling her a little. What would it hurt if we bought her that video game, just because? Who was harmed if we took her on expensive vacations to Disney, just because? I often reminded her that we couldn’t have done any of those things if she had siblings – we just wouldn’t have been able to afford it if there were more kids. As I think back, I’m pretty sure I was trying to convince myself that being an only child was good for her.

Lanie begged for a dog for years, but as a full-time working mom, I really didn’t want the extra burden of caring for an animal. Besides, she wanted a BIG dog. I did concede to getting an aquarium filled with beautifully colored tropical fish. Looking back, the dog might have been easier as we killed off more than 34 fish before learning how to keep their environment healthy. As Lanie and I struggled to keep her fish “siblings” alive, we both learned a valuable lesson – life doesn’t always work out the way you plan it, so you’ve just got to do the best you can with what you’ve been given.

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The middle school years improved a little. Lanie had a close-knit group of friends that would take turns going on family vacations with us. Those six girls were inseparable, and after a while even started to dress and look alike. These friends helped Lanie feel a little less lonely and my girl quickly emerged as the leader of the pack.

By high school, Lanie had all but forgotten that she was “different” because she was an only child. In fact, she became the “lucky” one. While all her friends had to share everything with their brothers and sisters, “Lucky Lanie” had everything to herself.

I think the ultimate sign, for all of us, was that being an only child brought great rewards appeared three years ago. Lanie was in her last year of college, and on her way to becoming a nurse. Her boyfriend was living an hour away in a rural community. With limited job opportunities and no real options in sight, we invited him to move into our home. While that may have been unconventional, Lanie got it; and I think I finally did too. Had we had other children in our home, this invitation would never have been extended. Because we were able to open our home to someone my daughter cared so much about, we were able to make a positive impact in both of their lives.

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Lanie is now moving into her own home and creating her own family. Ironically, she’s a nurse at a fertility clinic where many of the patients struggle to have even one child. We’ve had many conversations now that she’s an adult, and I believe she recognizes the benefits of being an only child -like getting all the attention, all the presents, all the money and all the love.

As for me, I think I’ll always wonder what it would have been like to have more kids, but I’ll never regret having just one very special one.

 

Do you have any only child? Were you one yourself? Are you closer to your child or parents because of it? I’d love to hear your perspective.


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Give Them Space: How I Learned To Avoid Murdering My Adult Kids

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Raising a kid is challenging. I thought I was home-free once my daughter had become an “adult.” Boy, was I wrong.

I wrote this post a few years ago, but I know this is a topic many Women Over 50 have struggled with or are still sorting through. I wanted to share my story to help others see that they’re not alone and that “this, too, shall pass.”

Take a look. I’ll bet you’ll find yourself nodding your head a few times as some of my experiences may sound pretty similar to your own. Enjoy!


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When my husband suggested three years ago that we invite our only child’s boyfriend to move in, I think I must have been high on cleaning product fumes, because I said, “Sure. Why not?”

At the time, our girl was three weeks shy of 21, and her guy had reached that milestone into true adulthood six months before. Lanie and Jay had been dating for almost a year and were already getting pretty serious. She was commuting to college and working toward a nursing degree. He was living with his mom and not-so-nice stepdad over an hour away. He had no job, no car and no one willing to help him get either one. While it wasn’t a parent’s dream match-up, they were gloriously happy, and he treated her like his princess.

Three days before my husband’s now infamous question, we got a frantic phone call at one in the morning. The kids were driving down a newly graveled country road out near Jay’s house, when a deer jumped out in front of them. Lanie swerved to avoid hitting it and rolled her SUV three times. They ended up in a ditch upside down, wedged between two trees. The fact that they survived with only minor bumps and bruises was my sign that there was a bigger plan for these kids and that something had to change.

I can truly say, at that moment, I probably would have agreed to shave my head and become a Buddhist monk if it meant my daughter would stay safe. The next best thing was to have Jay move in so they wouldn’t have to make that hour-long trek every other day. In hindsight, it was the best decision I ever made, but it was also the most naive one.

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Did you know that boys masquerading as young men are crazy? I do now! I also found out that it’s contagious and that their love-struck girlfriends will follow them blindly into Crazytown no matter how well you’ve raised them. Our always agreeable, respectful, considerate child became an alien with entitlement issues and a major attitude. And while Jay was appreciative of our willingness to invest time and money into his future, he just didn’t understand why I went ballistic when he brought home three pet mice and a puppy. For reference, the only pet Lanie was allowed to have was a goldfish named Urkel.

Pretty quickly, hubby and I agreed that we needed to establish some ground rules, or we were going to be on trial for murdering both of them. The first rule was that they had to have separate bedrooms. We had set up our spare room with all the amenities a guy could want – a comfy futon for sitting or sleeping, a smart TV for video games or web-surfing, a dresser and bookshelf for all his “stuff”, and easy access to the bathroom just a few steps away. Lanie already had a Barbie-pink room of her own with everything she needed – or so we thought.

After weeks of trying and failing to chaperone, listening to my husband rant about them “shacking up” in his house, and enduring my parents’ snide remarks about my lack of control, I was DONE!

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For me to get to that point was a monumental feat. I’ve always hated confrontation and would do anything possible to smooth things over to avoid it. That day I learned something about myself though. I learned that it was time to set aside Debbie, the mom, and bring out Debbie, the woman. I had done a great job at raising my daughter to be a thoughtful, caring, intelligent, independent woman. I was so caught up in trying to keep the peace, I didn’t notice that things had changed. My little girl was grown up, and she had chosen the man she wanted to be with. And whether I agreed with every decision she made or not, they were her decisions to make.

 

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Photo credit: RLJ Photography NYC / Foter.com / CC BY

 

We’ve had a lot more bumps and bruises to endure over those years, and we still struggle at times to get along, but I’ve learned that they need their own space. While we share the whole house, those two rooms upstairs are theirs. It’s funny – when I started treating them like adults, they started acting like adults.

My next job…to get my husband to loosen his grip on all HIS power tools. This ought to be fun!

Do you think I’ve totally lost my mind for continually trying to play referee to grown children or can you relate? I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’d love to hear your thoughts – for or against?


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Only One – Lonely One?

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Originally posted at Knotsosubtle.com – Only One – Lonely One?

With only a few remnants of my daughter’s childhood remaining in her Barbie-pink bedroom, it’s hard for me to find the right words to express my feelings on this night before she literally moves into adulthood. It’s so unlike me to get all teary-eyed at the thought of Lanie growing up and moving out, but here I am with tears on my cheeks. Every mother, at one time or another, worries that she hasn’t given her child all the tools needed to lead a happy, successful life, away from her protection. My cross to bear is buried a little deeper in the regret that I never gave her a sibling.

Continue reading “Only One – Lonely One?”