My only child is spoiled. It’s true. Do I feel badly about it? Not a chance. To tell you how we got here, I have to tell you how we started. We never planned to make an only child. Truth be told, I’m shocked we only have one. I always thought that I would have at least two kids, probably more if my husband agreed. However, life makes other plans. We started a family late in life; I was 38 when my daughter was born. After almost a year of getting settled into our routines and feeling comfortable that we had this kid thing down we started trying for another. Three years later with “undetermined” fertility issues, we remain a family of three.
In those 4 years since she was born I have slowly come to terms with not having more children. I say that nonchalantly but it has been no easy realization for me. Somewhere along the way between soul searching and fertility treatments I also made an unconscious decision to absolutely do every single thing we wanted to do, see every show, buy every toy and every pretty dress we liked because this may be our only chance. I didn’t realize I was doing it until about a year ago when we were planning our family vacation and my husband mentioned that he and I never did these things as kids. He did not say it as an accusation, just an off handed comment. He was right. Maybe we are financially more able to do these things with one child than our parents who had three kids each. Maybe these things weren’t available when we were kids. Maybe it just never occurred to our parents that we would enjoy going to see Sesame Street Live. In that moment I realized that we were probably overdoing it. I mean she is very likely not going to remember her first plane ride, her first time in the ocean or a trip to an amusement park.
I pondered that a while. I thought maybe we should wait until she’s older. Maybe we should scale back on vacations, birthdays, Christmas? It hit me. Nope. What we should do is stop overthinking it and have fun. We are responsible adults. Our bills are paid and obligations met. We are actively planning for our future and hers so why can’t we over-do it a little? It doesn’t just spoil her, it spoils us. The absolute, unadulterated joy we get from these experiences; from making her laugh when we are playing on a beach vacation or from watching her face when she sees Daniel Tiger in person for the first time is unsurpassed. The memories we are making are not just for her, they are for us. It makes us happier. It makes us hopeful. It makes our lives better. We look forward to those moments and start planning our next adventure as we drive home from the one we are on.
Of course, we do all the things we need to do so we are not raising an entitled child. Make no mistake that there is a difference between a spoiled and an entitled child. We stress manners such as please and thank you and the importance of treating other people how you would like to be treated. We explain that money doesn’t grow on trees and that we go to work all day long to be able to pay for things like our house and food and yes, toys. We fix broken things instead of throwing them away and mend torn clothes when we can. We show her charity and let her be a part of selecting things she wants to share with other kids that don’t have all the things she does. We utilize a chore chart to help her earn items and teach her the values of working for something special. We start every school day by saying, “Be kind, be smart, be brave” and she is. Our family has been blessed with this singular smart, imaginative, kind-hearted child and I unapologetically plan to keep on making the most of every minute we get together.