She looked at me and asked, “Is he your only child?”
“Yup, he’s it,” I respond and then shift in the awkward silence. She is looking me over as if she is wanting an explanation, all while her kids are spilling out of the van. Her car battery is dead, making her life look a bit chaotic right now, while mine, well, it looks pretty put together at the moment.
I feel a little guilty standing there with my only child so I nervously blurt out an explanation. “Yes, we just have the one, but not by choice,” as if to say, I promise you my life isn’t perfect and neat and without trials. Trust me, I wish my life was a little more full of kids and diapers and spit up. But I don’t ramble on about my life story there in the parking lot. I hope that my one sentence explains that my life really isn’t perfect, and it hasn’t gone as planned.
The words I quickly stuttered are true. It isn’t my choice. We haven’t gotten to choose how many kids we will have or how they are spaced in age. Instead, we’ve had a long road of infertility and the blessing of adoption. I play the words over in my head. I have plenty of opportunity to think about it as I get asked this question a lot.
“Is he an only child?”
I feel a bit defensive some days because this isn’t really the way I had imagined our family. (A big round pregnant belly, one boy, and then one girl. That was my dream. Oh yeah, and a white picket fence would be nice.)
Life has a way of surprising us, taking a different turn than we had imagined. When other parents or strangers ask me if we will have another or adopt again I am reminded that it is not my choice. I have wasted many hours and days, well, let’s be honest, years being miserable and comparing my life with other families. It’s really not a fun place to be. It’s quite terrible actually. So despite how I had always dreamed it to be, I have decided to choose my perspective. It is a process like so many things in life. Rather than focus on what could have been I will embrace my reality. A small family it may be, but it is truly wonderful.
I have a choice about so many things. So I will choose.
I will choose not to compare and compete with the woman with a van full of kids.
She is no more and I am no less because of how many children we have. Parenting is hard regardless. Most likely, she is feeling the need to explain something too. If I can just be brave and honest in a conversation I see that she isn’t judging, rather facing struggles and insecurities, too.
I will choose gratitude over the pity party.
Some days are harder than others but every single day there is beauty somewhere. I can choose to stop and take a picture or laugh at the silly moments (there are plenty of those in this household).
I will choose quality, focused time with my only child.
This is a blessing. I can have one-on-one conversations with my little kindergartner on the way home from school. It’s a gift to jump on the trampoline together, or walk down to our creek to explore. I can pour all my mama resources into this one precious life with which God has entrusted us. That’s a big responsibility.
So when you see me smiling, laughing and enjoying my only child, know that it isn’t always easy. I have chosen this attitude not my situation, and will continue to embrace this life in a small family–even without a white picket fence.