Just the Check, Please

When meeting someone for the first time, social custom generally dictates that we cover the basics: name, job, occupation. This sparse exchange goes just far enough for an embarrassed silence, and so we scramble to find common ground. At the very least, we try to justify our presence. ‘I’m a friend of…’, ‘My cousin is…’, ‘The door was open.’ If you’re Dutch, you play bingo.

For the younger crowd, we often try to discover each other’s respective progress in the Game of Life. Are you single? Married? How many blue pegs? How many pink? The gamut of questions is predictable, and exhausting. Are you seeing anyone? Are you engaged? When are you getting married? When are you going to have children? When are you going to have more children?

Kelly and I are stuck in this last phase, and we can’t seem to move on.

We married young, and had Ian during our third year. This was just a bit earlier than we would’ve liked, but we wanted our youth to counter any potential genetic problems caused by the ravages of time. Of course, no one noticed. At the time we were living in a community where people gave birth young, and often; these are people who shouldn’t hang their clothes in the same closet. Ian had barely opened his eyes before people started asking, ‘So, when’s the next one?’

Next what? Bus? Star Wars sequel? Oh, child! ‘Well, we only plan to have the one.’ Crickets chirp. A tumbleweed rolls across the plain. In the distance, a lonely dog barks. When you tell someone your name, they generally don’t care why your parents named you ‘Moon Unit‘. But if you tell someone you’re only going to have one child, you’d better have a reason. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find one that works.

Kelly is an only-child. My sister and I are seven years apart, and, to some extent, grew up as only children. Of course, it’s hard to bond with a sister when you’re tethered to a Nintendo. My other brother and sister live[d] in another state, so our family dynamic wasn’t exactly typical.

Kelly’s a Christian school teacher, I was an English major who minored in poetry. I prefer to pay my bills, and the more children we have, the more likely it is we’ll be reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting by candlelight. We enjoy the thought of being able to send Ian to Christian schools, and college, and, when he’s older, I plan to share a pint of Guiness with my son while our family travels through Wales.

Of course, money and time aren’t the real issues. In the end, we just don’t feel the desire to have more children. We’re happy, Ian’s happy. Yay! We realize that God has a plan (and a great sense of humor), so another child isn’t out of the question. But, until further notice, the only son I’ll be writing about is Ian.

Really, I don’t mind being asked if we’re going to have more children. It’s the judgement that so often follows, as if we’re insane, or as if having an only-child is irresponsible. But how responsible is having another child so that Ian ‘will have a brother to play with’, or because ‘they’re so much fun’? Are people honestly asking us to have children we don’t want, and who they don’t have to raise?

Bill Cosby once said that people with only one child aren’t really parents. When something breaks, there’s only one suspect. I used to laugh at that, until I realized that having a suspect doesn’t guarantee a confession.

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