Being parents to an only child often looks like a cakewalk to parents of multiple children.
We don’t have to perform the “divide and conquer”parental technique of attending 7 soccer/lacrosse/hopscotch tournaments all 14 of our kids under the age of 12 are competing in over the course of a weekend.
We don’t find ourselves perennially perched in the referee chair, a decision of culpability in the “who spit on whom first” debate resting in the wings.
We don’t have to purchase a much-desired $800 “hoverboard”(that, by the way is totally not a hoverboard) in triplicate to appease all three kids.
Widowhood hits the parent of a singleton hard, however.
Really, really hard.
I can’t speak for other parents of an only child, but in Clan Cranstoun, Caeley was always an active participant in Jamey’s treatment.
She was with us in the ER when he received the unofficial diagnosis of a brain tumor.
She ‘s navigated desolate stairwells, stacked up on graham crackers from kitchens and knelt at the multi-faith chapel of the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania after hours, in the dark and on weekends.
The kid knows her way around a hospital. Well, Penn at least.
And she can rattle off the steps to a standard neurological exam with her eyes closed.
These are all fascinating, unique experiences that most children her age would never have experienced.
I guess if you’d like to put a positive spin on her experience, you can.
But being an only child and losing one parent is a scary proposition for the remaining parent and the child as well.
It also adds a funky dynamic to the parent-child relationship.
When you have a sibling, you have a peer; you have a partner-in-crime.
When you have a sibling, you’re wired with an inherent “us versus them” mentality with “us” being the kids and “them” being the parent or parents.
It doesn’t matter if you come from a dual or single-parent household–a sibling offers an automatic ally in the “Not Fair” fight that so often beleaguers kids and parent(s) alike.
When you’re an only-child and you see yourself as a peer to your parents and you’re introduced to words like chemotherapy and anaplastic astrocytoma and concepts like dying at a very young age, you grow up quickly.
All too quickly.
And as a “quick study” in the ways of life, you become aware of its fragility and frailty at an age when most kids are still eating their own boogers or wiping them on others at best.
Being an only child and having one parent die is scary.
The other day, Caeley and I were out.
I can’t recall exactly what we did, but it was fun.
At least it was pleasurable enough for her to actually admit to having fun which, for a pre-teen female, is about as rare as finding a fully-intact dinosaur skeleton; it don’t happen a lot.
When we got home and she jaw-droppingly offered that she’d experienced a pleasurable reaction to our time spent together, she unfortunately followed it up with a soul-crushing blow: “I had a really great time today; had a lot of fun. Isn’t it weird to think that the two of us are our only family now? It’s just us left?”
Granted, prior to “just us” there was only one added person.
It’s really not a huge difference.
But as a mother and the only living parent, it IS huge.
And it’s scary.
When Jamey was alive and cognizant, we put previsions in place for what would happen to Caeley if we both passed away.
No parent wants to think about it.
Very few ever have to face that reality.
But it happens.
And whether you want to think about it or not, as a parent, you should be prepared.
Stuff happens, folks. It happens all the time.
As comforting as “being prepared what would happen to Caeley were I to die” may be, that doesn’t take away from the added responsibility I feel to remain “not dead”.
So what do you all think about involving kids(only children or otherwise) in significant medical/family decisions?