Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Break. Or, The Only Time I Hate Having An Only Child

Growing up, I could never picture my future self as a mom; it seemed physically and emotionally uncomfortable and exhausting and life-draining.  Being a wife? That picture was crystal clear: I really wanted to be a wife.  But, and maybe it was the time that I grew up in, I knew that if marriage and wifehood was a part of my future then having children would most likely have to be a part of it too. So, my motherhood plan became quite simple: if/when I ever became pregnant the number of babies that came out of that single pregnancy would be it. Brilliant. Fast forward to March 2000, marriage. Then to December 2004, birth of one baby, a little girl. Since then, I've never wanted another child; our little family of three works well for us.  

When our daughter was younger being an "only" was hardly noticeable. We even had lots of friends with "onlys" so there were lots of outings and play dates scheduled.  And for every year that our daughter aged, more and more opportunities to do other types of activities opened up: soccer, dance, music, camps, and other enrichments.  We were fortunate that we could enroll her in several activities simultaneously but the more she did, the less time she, and we, really, had to socialize with friends outside of these organized, and time consuming, activities.  What free time we did have was precious and was often spent doing routine household chores and having family down time.  So those organized outings and play dates? A thing of the past. And boredom? Isolation? My daughter didn't even know the meaning of the words.

Of course, my daughter's experience is not necessarily unique; this is probably a very familiar story to anyone who has had a kid or watched them grow.  But what might be a little different for my daughter today, as a 10 year old "only," is that, well, she spends a lot of time with adults. Or alone. This doesn't matter much during the school year when her normal routine is still pretty fulfilling. But, in the summer, it is often much more noticeable and less desirable.  For her.  But, especially, for me. She doesn't have the built in playmate situation with a go-to sibling or the the cul-de-sac full of neighborhood kids to run outside and play with (we live in an urban area and there are no kids her age to play within a couple block radius of our house).  And, making the situation more challenging, as she has gotten older, she no longer blindly accepts and trusts choices that I would make for camps or lessons.  She has to approve them in advance. And friends have to enroll too for her to enroll. And, under no circumstances, can it be a sleep away camp. So while the opportunities are still as great for a 10 year old, my daughter's criteria limits what she is willing to do thereby confining her to the home quite a bit in the summer.  My inner child can relate - that's totally how I was as a kid, as I'm sure a lot of us were.  Heck, it's totally how I am today as an adult!  But, even now as an introverted adult, I can see the benefits of taking some social risks. I just wish I did at her age.    

You're probably thinking, why not call up a friend, invite them over! That does make a lot of sense. And I should. But a few things always seem to get in our way: lack of organization, the typical state of our house, a lack of follow through, my introversion, and, in the end, our general willingness to accept the status quo of this situation.  And by "our" I do include the 10 year old in that because, at the end of the day, she is a product of her environment. So, do I regret not having another child?  No. Never. But it sure would be nice during the summer to have a regular playmate for my daughter. Even if it were just one day a week.  Maybe there's a rental program out there? Haha.  I kid. I kid. Bottom line, I'm sure she's still thriving.  I'm sure that she still happy. And I'm sure that she still not damaged by being an "only" in any way.  They say that 20% of kids in the US are "onlys" now (US Census stats 2011). Twenty percent of us can't be wrong, right?  In the meantime,  I'm determined to provide every recreational and educational opportunity within my means this summer to keep her busy, entertained, and informed. And, eventually, maybe, I'll even get around to calling that friend.            
And, should anyone be concerned that we've been spending too much time on Netflix and Facebook, which we probably have anyway, here's a list of the things we've around town done since June 1:

*One week of cooking and art camp (the kid, not me)
*Four visits to the library
*Clementine's Naughty and Nice Ice Cream - 1st time visiting
*Jilly's Cupcakes - 1st time visiting
*Fort de Chartres Rendezvous
*Weekly Violin Lessons (not sure if these really count)
*Violin Recital (not sure if this really counts)
*St. Louis Zoo
*Ted Drewes - 1st visit of the season
*Grant's Farm
*Circus Flora
*Civil War Museum
*Contemporary Art Museum
*Pulitzer Arts Foundation
*Wax Museum and Laclede's Landing
*Graffiti Wall
*Exploring Neighborhoods: The Loop
*Exploring Neighborhoods: Historic St. Charles
*Renegayed @ (3rd Annual) Tower Grove Pride Festival
*One week of fashion camp at COCA 

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