• Judy Cohen

What You Shouldn’t Ask or Say To a Parent of an Only Child

The other night my husband and I were out to dinner at a neighborhood wine bar. We frequent this place often and the owners know us well. On this particular night I didn’t order a glass of wine because I was going on day two of a horrible migraine. When the owner saw I was drinking water he immediately asked if I was pregnant. This question coming from family and friends is close enough to crossing the line, but from a wine bar owner? Wow – just wow.

I told him that I was too old for starters and also, I was very happy with my one son. He did the typical flattering of telling me there was no way I was too old, blah, blah, blah, and when I told him I celebrated a big milestone last year, he instantly turned the conversation to whether I was still capable of having more children. It took me a minute to understand what he was actually asking me but I finally figured out he was asking if I was in or had gone through menopause! Again – wow, just wow.

This got me thinking about other awkward topics that some people feel are completely appropriate to discuss openly with you whether they know you well or not. For me, up until this moment at the wine bar, the most uncomfortable questions I’d been asked were centered on me having another child. “Don’t you want to give your son a sibling,” or “Don’t you want a little girl?” I started getting those cliché questions after my son’s 1st birthday. Truth is I did want to give my son a sibling but it just wasn’t in the cards. You know, God laughs while you’re busy making plans. While many women have an idea of how many babies they would like to have, there are no crystal balls when it comes to birthing children.

Judy-isms only child

There are a number of questions and comments you shouldn’t ask or say to parents of an only child and here are some of my favorites:

When are you going to start trying for a little brother or sister for your son? – I’m not sure but I think you just asked if I was having sex. Clearly this question is very personal, on so many levels, and should probably not be asked if you are a random person standing in the checkout aisle of the grocery store.

Will you get your child a puppy instead? – Implying that a puppy is a substitute for a baby brother or sister is pretty ridiculous. While most children would love to have a little sibling(s) to torment, if a couple decides (or has no choice) to stop at one, they shouldn’t be made to feel a family pet will fill an empty place at the dinner table.

You’re so lucky you only have one child — I’m so tired all the time with two. – Parenting is exhausting whether you have 1, 2 or 10 children. It’s not a contest on who can be more overwhelmed or who does more laundry or who has the least amount of sleep. Stop bragging about how inept you are at being a parent. After all, you decided to have more than one, right?

Your house must be so quiet with just one child. – For anyone who has children I’m sure the word “quiet” doesn’t describe anything in their home. Yes, the decibel levels in a house full of kids is probably a little higher than in a house of one, but that doesn’t mean it’s like being in a library.

How do you teach your child to share? – Hopefully the same way you teach your children to share. Just because there is only one child doesn’t mean they rule the roost and aren’t taught manners.

Life sure must be easier when you only have one child. – Define easy? Just because parents of one child don’t have to multiply everything they do for their children times 2, 3 or more doesn’t mean their jobs are any less harder. In some respects an only child can be more challenging. For example: potty training or learning to tie shoes or picking up toys with no sibling to learn from.

Is traveling easy with just one? – Is traveling with children in general easy?

My friend thought she just wanted one child and when she had another she said her life was finally complete. – And I’m sure your friend’s therapist is working overtime helping her through her other issues.

Having children is a blessing, whether you are fortunate to have 1, 2 or more. When you meet a parent of an only child try to filter your questions and comments. For some having an only child was not by design and for others, one was plenty. Whatever their reason – it’s their reason – and none of your business, and chances are has nothing to do with menopause!


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