Sunday, January 25, 2015

Parenting An Only Child

I am a co-parent of an "only" child. Around his first birthday, someone said with a wink, "You're only going to have one child? No, you can't say that. You just never know!"

But I do know. We are lucky to live in a place where we have access to a variety of family planning options. My husband and I, since we met and before, wanted to raise one child.

There's no right or wrong way to decide to live your life, raise children or not raise children. The families or singles who decide to raise a child might do so with or without medical help or adoption services. As an outsider, you can't know what decisions an individual or couple made.

I grew up without siblings and being an only child was simply a fact of life. Sure, it was rarer then (the numbers have jumped from just under 10% in 1976 to 18% today), but I have always had friends that are my family in addition to my biological family. Sometimes I feel lonely, but that's because loneliness is a part of the human condition, not because I don't have a sibling.

Only children and children with siblings can be happy, unhappy, spoiled or not. There's no guarantee for health or intellectual capacity or anything else regardless of how many children you raise.

Parents or potential parents often ask me about my experience as an only child. I think it is hard to describe adequately since I've never known anything else. It was a childhood with ups and downs like any other. I never had a sibling that I lost or was taken away from me; I never missed someone who wasn't there.

My opinion as an only child and the parent of an only child? You'll be the best parent you can be if you do what feels right to you. Siblings could be best friends or end up disconnecting from each other or existing somewhere in between. There's no way to know because individuals are different and have different relationships separate from you. And there's good reason not to raise children if you don't want to. Do what you want to do; that's the best path for everyone.

For more, here's an article from PBS about the top ten (somewhat cute) reasons to have an only child.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

First ER Visit

We broke the first-visit-to-the-ER seal at dawn on Friday. The bambino’s fever was very high and the doctor on call recommended we take him to the ER for tests and hydration. My husband was away at a conference and my college friend, affectionately called “Aunt Joanna,” was visiting.

The bambino, Aunt Joanna, Elmo and I loaded into the car, one of us still in footsy pajamas, and headed to the hospital after defrosting the car windows. While I was on call for emergencies when I worked in student life, holding your sweaty, shaking and frightened child in your arms is not what I trained for. Being completely in love with the patient changes everything.  

The doctors and nurses, whose shifts were just ending/starting when we arrived, were incredibly patient and kind to our littlest one. One particularly thoughtful nurse succeeded in distracting him with a red popsicle as two other nurses struggled to start an IV in his arm.

In the end, he’s ok and mostly recovered, even back in daycare today after a long holiday weekend of attempting to rest. And, after catching my breath, I feel confident that I can care for my son, even during emergencies. That is, alongside medical professionals.

And if my husband is out of town, alongside Aunt Joanna. Her support and clear mind was a huge help, as were the encouraging smiles. I look forward to a future visit that includes the outdoors.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Not Yet Writing This Year

Snow days are fun, but the other days need to be better organized

Our son has been going to daycare for about a month and a half. He's missed days because of illnesses and snow. I'm exhausted from sharing his illnesses and co-parenting him when he's ill. This morning there was a delayed opening because of an ice storm.

Since the holidays, I've been prepping my spring semester classes, purging extra objects (including admitting certain clothes/shoes will never fit after a pregnancy) and doing the million things that one must do, like going for check-ups at the doctor. In my incredibly organized electronic calendar, I spent time to block off (other) time to write each week starting this January.

My name is Chloe Miller and I'm a world class procrastinator.

I haven't written or read anything more than a magazine yet this year.

Not. A. Stanza.

This needs to change. Writers write. Writers edit. Writers submit. Writers publish. And, most importantly, writers read.

I've thought about writing and was inspired in December to start a new project. But thinking and doing are not the same.

Here's to hoping that I can get back on track, along with all the other busy parents out there. Holding up my coffee to toast making time to write and doing it, in addition to teaching and caring for myself and my son.

Monday, January 5, 2015

In Praise of a Small Apartment & City Living

I’ve been told that I can’t raise a child in the city, at least not in a small apartment. Since we’d rather live in the city (and within walking distance of my husband’s work), this is where we live. For all of my city-dwelling or city-wish-to-be-dwelling, here’s my praise of our little home and its location.

We have a two bedroom apartment with a living room and separate eating area. By my Italian immigrant relatives’ (likely) standards, we have more than enough room for two parents and one child.

Living in our nation’s capital, we can take the bus, train or car to a long list of free museums, libraries, poetry readings, parks, embassy events, musical shows and more. The number of free family-oriented and adult events in this city continues to astound me, and I’m one of those cynical folks who grew up near New York City.

As a nervous nelly who is always convinced a murderer will one day knock on our door, I love living in a building with other units. Worse case scenario, one of them will call the police while I scream for help after the murderer has barged in. I feel much safer than I would living in a single family home isolated from neighbors, whether we love them or not. But enough about my own issues... 

I’ve found it easy to raise our son, now 18 months old, in a small apartment. He can run from one end of the apartment to the other pretty quickly and we can keep up. We always know where he is, which is especially great now that he finds hiding so entertaining. With baby gates we can be even more sure that he’s not in the kitchen where the stove might be hot. He’s generally free to go from one room to another and I can either see or hear him at any moment.

When he was even tinier and constantly taking a bottle, I could quickly step into the kitchen and prepare him a bottle. Now I can scoot into the kitchen to make my coffee first thing in the morning after he wakes up. And even without the video monitor (yes, we’re those parents), I can hear what he’s up to.

We spend a lot of time outside: walking to the two playgrounds at the elementary school only a few blocks away and playing on our block. There are many families in the neighborhood and most people play in their front yards. We’ve met families with kids of different ages and my son has played with them. If we were all hiding behind fences in our backyard, I don’t know how we’d ever meet anyone.

Before daycare, when we had babysitters, it was hard to work at my desk. Luckily, there are a number of beautiful libraries really close with nice lighting, strong internet connection, plugs and space. I particularly love working on the second floor of the Georgetown city library with its tall windows.

In college, I was jealous of a friend who grew up in New York City. She’d tell tales of taking the subway to see art exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and more. I knew I wanted to offer my child – and myself - such easy access to a world within a city.

And what does living in Washington, D.C., mean for my poetry? I can hear the Poet Laureate’s inaugural reading at the Library of Congress in the fall, regular readings at the many cafes, bookstores, universities and embassies, no matter how small my living space may be. And one day my son will join me.