Monday, September 21, 2009

Won't You Be My Baby? by Jamie Levine

Although I’m almost 40 years old, I will always be my mother’s “baby.” So, of course, I often look at my 28-month-old toddler, and still think of her as the helpless little infant she once was. But, as Jayda constantly reminds me, herself—when she pees in the potty or swings from monkey bars—“Jayda, big girl now!” In fact, she’s so ”grown up” that when she sees a smaller child in a stroller (a vehicle she, herself, shunned long before the age of two), she calls him or her “a baby”—even if she’s only mere months older. And the smaller the child, the more enamored she becomes, and the more she wants to help take care of the “baby.”

I know all the babies at Jayda’s day care by name—from the infants to the 18-month-olds—because Jayda insists on visiting them all in the morning before she goes to her classroom, and, again, in the afternoon, before we go home. When we visit my friend who has a daughter Jayda’s age, as well as an almost-one-year-old, Jayda generally shows more interest in the baby than in her contemporary. And, when we go to the playground, Jayda always stops her climbing and jumping and swinging as soon as she sees a stroller glide by. She’ll run over and peer inside, and refuse to do anything else but stand and watch the baby.

At home, it’s the same story; Jayda has an arsenal of toy babies whom she dotes on, night and day. There’s “little baby,” her very first doll, which I let her pick out from a shelf full of options at a toy store (and who happens to be African American), and “big baby,” a giggling, bottle-sucking doll that was a birthday present from a friend. There are also countless other dolls and stuffed animals whom she calls her babies, all of whom get fed and cuddled and dressed by Jayda with care.

Both friends, as well as strangers who have observed Jayda’s behavior, have joked that I “need to give Jayda a baby sister or brother.” And, I do believe Jayda would be a wonderful big sis. But I don’t have the desire—or the resources—to have another child. Being Jayda’s mom is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life…but I don’t feel the urge to do it again. No other child could be a more perfect match for me than Jayda. But, as someone who grew up with siblings, I sometimes wonder if Jayda is missing out on anything by being an only child. And when I ponder this, I try to find comfort in something a wise friend once told me: Just because a child has a sibling doesn’t mean he or she will be close to that sibling. I have two siblings…a sister whom I adore and a brother whom I dislike. Sure, I love my brother because he’s my family, but has having him as a sibling enhanced my life? Definitely not. Would I be ok without him? Absolutely. So, there are no guarantees that giving Jayda a baby brother or sister would also mean providing her with a lifelong friend.

Lifelong friends aren’t born…they’re made. And so, I try to surround Jayda with people who love her…people whom she can count on when she needs help and support. People who will do all the things for her a good sibling can do. And, of course, I also try to befriend people who have babies of their own: babies we can visit—but whom I don’t have to take care of, too.

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Blogger Cara Meyers said...

I am an only child, as is my son, and from my personal experience, I never felt lonely or "different" in any way. Only children happen to be high achievers and strive to please the adults in their lives!

My son is the most social person I know! And 3 of his closest friends are only children as well! And THEY are all outgoing!! Ironically, it's his friends with siblings who are less outgoing and tend to be more "reserved." It could be their temperments or where they stand being a sibling. Nature vs Nurture. Who knows?

10:21 AM  

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