By Guest Blogger Pam Hondros
I was in my later 30’s when I got married and had my son. My hilarious friend has always bumped our ages up to the next decade. In our 20’s, she’d say “We 30” or at 35, I was already 40 according to her! So, she scared me to death about being pregnant “at 40”. It actually started when I met her elderly aunt, Minnie Ruth, in my early 30’s. Minnie Ruth didn’t mince words and when my friend introduced me, Minnie said, “You married?” “No” “You got any children?” “No” “It’s too late.”
I laugh every time I recall it…but I do admit that Minnie’s words sometimes surfaced in my thoughts as a question, I pushed through the next few years and met my now-husband. I became pregnant right after 9/11. When my friend told Minnie Ruth I was pregnant, she sent word back … “Lorrrrd that baby gonna be born wit’ one eye” ! Well, when he was born with TWO … and on the front of his head, my friend was the first person I called from the hospital. You know when you’re in that state of laughing and crying equally and at the same time? I was doing that as I said “Tell Minnie Ruth he’s beautiful!”
He was perfect. But because I thought I was pushing the envelope with a pregnancy past 35, I didn’t really consider having another child. As he grew … as we talked about the birds and bees … I told him that his dad and I “did THAT once” to get HIM and he was all we wanted! He was all we wanted. But so often, I have wondered if that was selfish.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many wonderful things about having an only child. But being from a family with four brothers, being the mom of an “only” has been heart-wrenching at times, thought-provoking and perspective-altering, especially as my son grows up and we grow older.
On the plus side, my son says he wouldn’t want it any other way. We have our little routines that some random kid with a weird personality would screw up! Like we really enjoy taking long rides to the mountains or going downtown to get a boba tea or trying different foods (he has always had a more adult palate). A third wheel would put a damper on things! But seriously, one of the blessings of an only child is conversation. If I’d been busy raising multiple humans, we would’ve missed so many moments with each other. For example, we had a “talking chair” when he was little. I’d sit on one arm and he on the other. We would face each other and say, “What do you want to talk about?” It was usually silly stuff. As time rolled on, we would talk about things like politics, friends, choices, girls, plans and interests. (We were too big for the chair, so many of these convos took place during those car rides.) We ironed out problems (sometimes) and I schooled him on human behavior. I also told him that before I die, he would know everything I know about women!
It’s clear that I am raising an only child who is also an old soul. It seems that he looks at the world differently than many of his friends and I figure it has a lot to do with being raised by “older” parents and from having the benefit of lots of conversation. From what my friends tell me, he also talks to me more than the average kid. He would tell me what was going on in his world and he never hesitated to tell me what he was doing … many times, I didn’t WANT to know! Oh, he’s still a typical teenager and doesn’t share nearly as much information as he once did. I have to train myself to reign it in and give him all the space he needs to hold on to his private thoughts. As Kahlil Gibran writes in The Prophet on children, “You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.”
As I often tell him, I have never raised a human being. I am learning as I go. I screw up and get it wrong more times than I can accept. But he gleans good lessons from my mistakes and my willingness to admit them (I hope)! This is true no matter how many kids we have, I guess. For me, I only get one shot at this thing. But there IS so much good that comes from our “exclusive relationship”…. but, there’s always a but …
Now that he approaches adulthood, I spend a lot of time talking to God about his future. I’m sure you do that no matter how many kids you have. But the ONE THING that sets apart the prayers for an only child, is the thought of him being alone in the world. I always “remind” God to please not let him be alone …to find someone who will love him unconditionally … to have a few good friends to turn to when his heart aches or he gets laid off from a job or his child gets sick. I pray that he will have a soft place to land when he’s a grown man but needs to be spoken to tenderly. My heart aches at the thought that he would eat meals alone or he would wake up in an empty house. And I pray that he doesn’t have to make hard decisions alone.
You see, I look at my friends of multiples and get a lump in my throat. Their kids will always have their siblings. My husband and I have ours. Our parents are elderly and it’s hard and painful and there are decisions to make. When we deal with these and other issues, we have assurance that there is someone to go to. Panic sets in when I think about my only son. Who will he turn to?
As a kid, he had no problem making friends. He was NEVER alone unless he wanted to be. And…oh my soul, there was something much deeper stirring in my heart when other moms would comment that I was the “cool mom” … taking truckloads of boys to Carowinds or out to eat or having them over to destroy my house and fill it with noise and laughter. I sensed at times that my parenting was scrutinized. Believe me, no one had to question if I was parenting all wrong because I second-guessed EVERYTHING I did! But, being the cool mom was never about spoiling my child. It was about “one day” … In my mind, I thought that one day, he would still have these friends. One day, when I’m gone, he will have Gavin or Andrew or whomever. One day, they will recall, “Ms. Pam was so good to us” and all the fun they had with their childhood friend and they will honor those memories by taking Lucas’s phone call one day and when he says, “My mom is sick” or “I lost my job”, they will say, “I’ll be right over.”
Unfortunately though, one of those intimate conversations we’ve had lately has been that once the friends outgrow the nerf guns, their interests veer off and we can be left floundering. The needs we have are not as simple as having enough xbox remotes. And I can no longer arrange play-dates. It has to be up to him to find and discern who is true. But, as a wise friend (who’s also an expert in adolescent behavior and such) told me once, “Your son is an old soul, which may not serve him well in middle and high school, but it will serve him very well as an adult.” I cling to this, because in my heart I know it is true. It HAS to be.
My only child is becoming a man. I don’t want him to rush, but I know he’ll be a great one. He will remember our conversations. He’ll certainly know how women think! He will spot genuineness. He will make mistakes and have disappointments… but will remember that we’ve gone over that and that I promised him that they will fade into the fabric of who God is shaping him to be. He will remember how, when he was a little guy, I would tell him to squeeze his hand into a fist when he was afraid, because God promises to hold him by his right hand. He will remember that there’s a great plan for him and those who fade out of his life along the way have served the purpose of helping him learn who he is. One day, the world will learn who he is and those who stick around will be so fortunate to know this man who was once an only child. He will have them to lean on when I’m not here … and they can, without a doubt, lean on him … because he will know how much it means to be connected to another soul.
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