Why doesn’t Cal Wilson have a second child? Stop asking, would you.
I’m 44 and my five-year-old son is an only child, although I prefer the term “Limited Edition”.
At a gig recently, I ran into a woman I haven’t seen for 20 years. We caught up briefly and she asked me if I had kids. When I replied that we just had the one, she made a familiar face – a look of friendly, condescending, befuddlement, and said “but you’ll have more, right?” I smiled and said, that no, our family was complete, and she spent the next ten minutes trying to convince me to get my ovaries back into play.
It amazes me how casually people insist you have more children, like they’re trying to force a plate of biscuits on you: “Oh you must have more. You MUST.”
It happens constantly, and I haven’t worked out a decent way to stop the conversation. I’ve tried to brush it off by saying “I’m too old,” but that only elicits shrieks of “Noooo, you’re not too old! Women are having babies at 50 these days.” And yes, yes they are. And it’s genuinely wonderful for women who want a baby at 50, but it’s not for me.
I sometimes wish we lived in a country with a one-child policy, then no-one would be hassling me, they’d just be saying “what’s his name?” and “well done on following instructions.”
I started late. I didn’t plan to only have one child, just as I didn’t plan to have a hideous divorce, move countries, and start again from scratch in my 30s. I was pretty much reconciled to never having children at all after that, so I’m very grateful for the one exuberant little nut-bar I’ve got.
It’s not that I think it’s unreasonable to talk family; if I’m chatting to someone new, I may well ask “have you got kids?” If they say no, I follow it up with “tell me what sleeping-in is like,” and leave it at that. I don’t probe into their decision, or smile patronisingly and say “oh you must, you MUST!” because that would be rude, and none of my business.
We didn’t just have one kid on a whim. My husband and I have discussed the pros and cons of single-childness thoroughly with each other, and friends without siblings. AOC (Adult Only Child, a useful term I’ve just made up), and excellent comedian, Mel Buttle describes it as “growing up Business Class.” Amy, another AOC I know, loved her close relationship with her parents, and being allowed to take different friends on family holidays, and says the main disadvantage of being a single child only occurs once you’re an adult.
I hope, by the time we get to that stage, my son will have a partner to support him through the process, or that his father and I will have gone down in a blaze of glory, after robbing a bank in our microlight plane.
With no siblings, all of the decisions about her ageing parents’ care fall to Amy, which can be overwhelming. She says on the plus side, there’ll be no squabbling over the inheritance. I hope, by the time we get to that stage, my son will have a partner to support him through the process, or that his father and I will have gone down in a blaze of glory, after robbing a bank in our microlight plane, and then he won’t have to worry about us at all.
As the youngest of three, my own childhood was full of close combat and treachery, and we don’t want our boy to miss out on physical play and a bit of roughhousing. While my son may never experience the singular joy of pushing an older brother out the window into a rose bush, his dad and I make a point of holding him down and tickling him till he farts.
If circumstances had been different, we probably would have had more kids, but I love our little family. We’re a compact little unit, having just the three of us makes travelling more doable and we’ve been really lucky with the experiences we’ve been able to give him. We’re conscious of making sure he’s close to his extended family, and encourage all his friendships. We’re very fortunate his best mate lives just across the road and even luckier that we get on with his parents.
I’m left with my quandary though. How do I head a judgemental questioner off at the pass? Should I go nonchalant? (“To be honest, we wanted to see how this one turned out and we’ve realised we prefer the cat.”)
Do I shout “No!” while swatting them over the nose with a rolled up newspaper? Perhaps I need to make up something cheerful but off-puttingly graphic: “Well, as he was exiting the womb, he grabbed a Fallopian tube, and turned my uterus inside out like a jumper. No more for us!”
I might give it a try; I’ll let you know how I go.
Cal Wilson is a Kiwi who calls Australia home. Comedian, Writer, amateur Cat Lady.