“Can we get a baby brother?”
This is a question that comes up in our home quite often. It’s one I can choose to diffuse with a creamsicle. Who knew a frozen sweet treat would trump a heavy conversation (take note, single mums!)
My son knows we can’t just get a brother or sister at the store, but his six-year-old brain can’t exactly conceptualize the fact that some of his best friends have sibs and he does not. (He does have two half sibs. They just never met.) And I’m left to climb my way out of the question without saying yes or maybe.
It’s not like he’s asking for a dog, which he’s hands down going to get. When he asks when he’s getting a Golden Retriever puppy I can honestly say, one day soon. A kid, my kid, another kid is just a big question mark.
I would definitely have another baby, but I’m not exactly sure I’d do it alone again—I didn’t plan to do it alone this time, but my son’s dad left 11-weeks in. I have two friends that are choice mums. One has two kids and the other has a baby boy. I admire these women, because they both reached points in their lives where they didn’t have a partner, but wanted a child … so they used donor sperm and are single mums now.
I’m in a slightly different situation because I have a child that I always wanted and I feel OK about our little family. I’m not headed to the sperm bank tomorrow, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t in a few years. I’m 33, so the clock is sort of ticking. I haven’t lost hope that I’ll meet a guy and we’ll fall in love, cut to Jack, the guy and a newborn crowded around my hospital bed in a maternity suite.
But is that fair to my son? My calm and cool attitude about having another kid doesn’t exactly tame his urgent questions about having a sib in the near future. Best I can do is explain that all families are different. I like to use the example of my friends Kelly and Mike. Jack is friends with their sweet daughter, Katelyn. Here’s a married couple, with a big home, but they choose to have one kiddo. Kelly’s reasons are similar to mine: “But I’ll give my child everything!”
And everything doesn’t just come down to material things, but most importantly love and attention. But attention from me is different than attention from a sib. I know this as true, because I have two brothers and we grew up entertaining each other. We rode bikes, played in the yard, made a car out of the dining room chairs and went on imaginary trips, ambushed our parents at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning and so on …
I do all those things with Jack—yes, we take trips to India from the kitchen chairs and kick the soccer ball around at the park. To give him what he yearns for—people his own age or around his age, I’m super proactive about planning play-dates with his little friends and taking him to places (the park, an indoor playground, the library for story time and a craft; an arcade) where other kids congregate. I’m lucky because my kid is not shy and makes new friends easily. Just this past weekend I took him to the family screening of Disney’s Planes at our town library. We saw the flick at the movie theatre and we have a big flat screen in our living room where the two of us could have watched the movie over Pop Chips and lemonade. But Jack enjoyed plopping into a bean bag chair next to some boys his age, eating microwave popcorn and watching the movie via an old school projector and collapsible screen.
I hear my son when he says he wants a sibling and I do my best to engage him in special mum and me activities, in addition to finding fun things for him to do with kids his own age. It’s not the same as having a sib, but it’s a nice runner-up.
Other single mums: What do you say when your child asks for a sibling?