It's not exactly a secret that I often find myself conflicted over my only-child-by-choice decision. I enjoy having an only child but I often feel guilty for not giving Caroline any siblings. I appreciate the relative ease of caring for one kid; I also appreciate the lack of sibling rivalry and petty fighting that happens in the back seat of the car (sorry mom!) and also not having to divide myself into two (or three) parts. But on the other hand, I'm saddened to think about how small our future holiday tables will be at family gatherings. Lots of kids = lots of grand kids. One kid = who knows? I guess there really isn't a right answer or a perfect number. From what I've discovered, family size is a complicated and personal topic. I'm pretty much in the "I don't care how many kids you have" camp. I just don't care.
It's not my business.
I had an interesting conversation at the pool this afternoon with a mom of four. We talked about family size and the pros and cons of a rearing a brood of children. She's crazy busy right now, but knew that she wanted a largish family. This season of her life is insane, but fulfilling, all the same. I'm NOT crazy busy, but knew that, for ME, a large family is good in theory, but not necessarily in practice. It's all about recognizing and honoring your limits.
I have a low chaos tolerance and have chosen to act accordingly. I'm prone to anxiety attacks. I freak out when I lose control. One kid works for me.
Besides, who needs more children of their own when you can entertain your child's friends all day?
If I really wanted to fulfill a desire to have a large brood, days like today make me realize that I don't need to conceive and birth children of my own, to make that wish come true. Instead, I can simply care for Caroline's friends.
I didn't have just one daughter today; I had four.
Upon returning from the gym this morning, Caroline invited over two friends to trade Silly Bandz. Not long after, my perpetually hungry child requested sustenance for herself and for her equally hungry posse. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to the rescue! All hail the blue box.
After lunch, another girl joined the fun and not long after, I schlepped all four of them to the pool. For three and a half hours, I watched four girls at the pool. I supplied them with watermelon, blueberry muffins, goldfish crackers and fruit roll ups and even gave up my own towel when one of theirs got sopping wet.
After our time in the sun, I took the four girls home and then gave them (and two of their little brothers) popsicles. I eventually did get rid of most the girls by the end of the day, but one of them is still here, spending the night with Caroline. That's okay, she's the sweetest and most agreeable of the bunch.
It was a busy day, for sure; just me and my four girls. But you know what? The best part of having four children like mine is that they all eventually go home to their own mothers. I don't have to fix their hair or wash their clothes. I can tune out their whining and don't have to remind them to brush their teeth. Well, except for that one monster of mine. She stays. For better or worse. I may have to do her laundry, but at least she brushes her teeth without prompting.
Today wasn't the first day that I've done this and it certainly won't be the last; I've been feeding and entertaining Caroline and her friends for quite some time. On most days, this is a good gig to have. Some days (like yesterday) I may lose it a bit, but for the most part, Caroline gets the benefit of plenty of playmates and I don't feel so guilty for not providing her with a baby brother or sister.
Let's face it, the guilt will never be completely obliterated; I majored in guilt trips and self loathing, after all. It's not in my nature to ever be completely at peace with any decision I've made, but for now, I'm going to try my best to bury the guilt and happily enjoy my honorary daughters.