When Your Child’s ‘Firsts’ Are Also Your ‘Lasts’
My only living child turned seven.
I never thought I’d even be a mother, much less to three boys, and I NEVER dreamed that only one of those three would live.
But he does, and he’s so amazing.
He is a balm my heart didn’t even know could exist.
I parent him differently, too. Differently than I believe I would have if his brother(s) had lived.
I don’t think my parenting style would be different. I taught children for nearly two decades. I had a very strong idea of how I’d like to parent my children. (Yes, I know lots flies out the window when reality comes in and it’s YOUR child you are dealing with, but…the basics of my parenting style are much like my teaching style–LOTS of love and laughter, but with clear expectations of how I want behavior to be.)
The difference, I think, in parenting the only child I had to live is that while I revel in ALL that he does as he lives and grows, each milestone we hit makes me mourn a little bit about opportunities never to come again. The opportunities I should have had with his brothers…
Related: Is He Your Only Child?
I know, I know….lots of mothers experience this–that wistfulness of wanting to keep their baby a baby, and the bittersweet feelings that come with watching their children grow into the people they are supposed to be.
But, I just have to say that I feel like when your one who lives is the only one who lived…well, it’s something unique.
When your only is the ‘only’ one who lived, it’s hard. People will tell you to be grateful and revel in what’s to come, and they will be right.
Except, acknowledging that it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re not grateful or excited about what is before you as your child grows.
All the joy and gratitude in the world doesn’t change the fact that I should have had that joy and gratitude times THREE.
The grief in mourning that which was stolen is appropriate, and does not negate the joy that I give thanks for every day.
The emotions sit, side-by-side, while I navigate how to balance them, and that too, is completely appropriate. To imply any other way is simply unrealistic, and dishonors the ‘process’ many name healing.
Related: Grieving the Child Who Did Not Die
There are many things a parent can often do when they have only one child. There are debates all over the place about whether small or large families are the best, and as in anything in life, there are pros and cons to each consensus.
But when you ‘only’ have an ‘only’ child through no choice of your own?
There’s a different spin.
You may get accused of ‘spoiling’ the one you have.
You may get accused of hovering.
You may even get accused of dwelling on what ‘should have been,’ instead of what is.
And, as you watch your heartbeat live and grow, you realize you don’t care what others think. They can think what they want.
They didn’t bury your son.
They didn’t have your body betray them over and over again.
And they have no idea what that little boy who just turned seven-years-old means to your existence. His firsts have been my firsts and lasts and it’s okay to miss them.