There was Bruce Springsteen on my TV this morning, talking about his song, "Jesus Was An Only Son." He was talking about how he hoped that his kids would be able to face the struggles of life, and that they wouldn't be surprised at how hard life could be once they got out there on their own. He said a friend told him not to worry, "Do your best and life will take care of itself." Just another refrain of the "give them roots and wings" ideal, but it caught me at a moment when I was reckoning one more time about having the one child as opposed to the house-bursting brood.
I have my wife convinced that I never think about this, and that my mind is set and I never have any doubts that the one son that we have is our gift to the world and any additional progeny would be risking a falloff from our extremely high standards. When she reads this, she will know that is not entirely true. Most likely, she will look at me sideways and not say a word since she knew this about me all along anyway.
But we did such an amazing job with the first one. He knows nothing of sibling rivalry and shines as the apple of our eye each and every day. When we buy Legos, we don't have to worry about "fair" - it just is. Decisions are made for the kid, with a focus that would not exist if there were facets to refract our laser-like parenting intensity.
He wakes up alone most mornings. He reads or watches TV. He excels at one-player video games. He is a solitary lad. That's not to say that he is a loner. He loves the company of friends and family, and looks forward to every new play date or gathering. But he doesn't handle random cruelty from other kids well. He expects the consideration and patience he gets from his parents in all interactions. This isn't a ridiculous expectation, but between the ages of nine and nineteen he can look forward to a lot more social injustice from his peers.
Brothers and sisters help cushion the blow. They don't always protect you from the looping right hooks of childhood, but they do teach you when to duck. Having an older brother to look out for you while at home introducing you to the phrase "wanna see something that really hurts?", or having a little sister to yell at for messing up the carefully layered levels of toys and comic books in your room - these are things for which siblings are created. If somebody is going to call you a name that makes you cry, it's always best to hear it from your brothers or sisters first.
These are my regrets. This is my reality. I know that I love my son with the length and breadth of the sky. I know that love comes back to me every day in ways I would never expect. And so I am content with the choices that we have made, and I feel lucky.