Monday, July 13, 2015

3 Rules for Parenting an Only Child

I revel in mornings on the patio.
My husband starts his day on the beach.
It's the last morning on the patio at the beach condo, and it promises to be a challenging one. The groundskeepers have been at it since before I was up, and the impact of freshly mowed grass on my allergies has already driven me inside once. Unlike last year, where we ended up with an out-of-commission bathroom for part of our stay, this year has been uneventful in terms of accommodations. Except for the omni-present mowers and trimmers outside our first-floor condo.

This week has been interesting for other reasons, though. Not only is it our first trip to the beach in several years without an additional teenager, we're also missing the one we usually have along in the first place. This is the longest trip my husband and I have taken by ourselves since before our daughter was born.

When you start your family at 36, you aren't expecting it to be a big one, and when you have just one child, you do some things differently. At least that's been my observation. Amid all of the usual parenting philosophies, I had three overriding goals:
  1. She would not be spoiled.
  2. She would be independent.
  3. We would enjoy every minute with her, because no matter how long the days seemed sometimes, her declaration of independence would come sooner than we thought.
Whether or not we've achieved #1 is a matter of opinion. With no siblings, she certainly got more "stuff" and plenty of attention. She also got higher expectations for adult-like behavior and more scrutiny (for better or for worse), and more adult conversation, if only because she was outnumbered. But at 17, she has a good head on her shoulders, and as her teen years have progressed, any entitlement she might have felt as an only has begun to subside, as she scrutinizes the world around her and recognizes that she's got a pretty good life.

#2? Oh, yes. Absolutely. This one came much sooner than I expected and is the reason I'm sitting on a screened-in porch at the beach while she's on a university campus 100 miles away, getting a taste of the life that won't be fully hers for another year. A child of daycare, she learned separation early on. As a licensed driver, she's putting those lessons into action.

#3? Truly, which is part of what has made this trip so pivotal for all of us. The most difficult part was the anticipation, both delicious and heartbreaking in its possibilities. The week itself has been lovely, but different, a small taste of what lies ahead as she not only declares, but exercises her independence and my husband and I do the same. I can't wait to hear what her week has brought.

Photo: AcrylicArtist via Morguefile
So here I sit on the screened-in porch, coughing and sputtering stubbornly as the scent of freshly mowed grass wafts across the patio, aided and abetted by the ceiling fan. Tomorrow morning, there will be no screened-in porch to sit on, and so I refuse to give it up any sooner than I have to. I'm enjoying the moment, because to do anything less would be foolish.

Tomorrow morning, our family will be three again, at least for a little while. And I will revel in that for as long as I can.

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