We were standing in line, waiting to get into a Halloween event at the church around the corner. Our daughter was almost 18 months, so she was one of the youngest. I can’t fully relay the lengths to which I went to not talk about motherhood at that point in my life. I avoided many a social situation, but that wasn’t going to work forever. I’m a semi-introvert married to a full-on extrovert—our daughter got my eyes and his volume.
The southern night was perfect, not hot or cold—Goldilocks would have loved it. Sun setting, no bugs, adults comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt, and children delighting in their costumes, all of us waiting for bounce houses and candy and cute carnival games. Our little bumble bee buzzed around the grass and unpaved path, her little black baby-doll shoes kicking up dust.
The question came up with the people near us in line, “Is she your only child?”
“Yes, yes she is,” we answered.
I didn’t often share that we were forced into having an only child by the nature of her birth when it was either cut out my uterus or lose my whole, actual life.
We chose the former.
(Rather, my husband and doctors chose the former. I was sleeping, fighting for my life.)
After that question, this woman who had never met me or my family before said words that haunted me for literal years, “It’s not real parenting unless it’s more than one.”
A stranger’s words shouldn’t hurt so much, but they did. I had zero control over other people’s comments, just as I had zero control over having just one child. Questions assaulted me for longer than they should have: Am I not a real mom? Was I not doing real parenting through the bedtimes and night feedings and social-emotional skills training and boo-boo kissing and giggle-at-nothing giggling and holding her through thunderstorms? Did I not deserve to be tired because I had “just one” kid? Did I not count as a parent because I didn’t have to mediate and negotiate wars between siblings?
Even though I objectively knew the answers to my questions, working them out took time. A lot of sidling up next to God and asking Him, “What kind of Mom do you want me to be today?”
The answer was always . . . the mom I made you. Be the mom I made you.
And He made me a Mom of one.
What a gift.
A gift that allows for spontaneous bike rides after school on the warmest day of the year so far so that we can get ice cream.
A gift that allows for easy travel out to California to pay honor after a loved one’s passing.
A gift that allows for two pizzas on movie night instead of four. Less clean-up for Mama!
A gift that allows for some sanity when we’re in a cramped living space thanks to an insane housing market.
A gift that allows for the building of a deep, meaningful, fun relationship that she doesn’t have to share.
All of that is true.
But you know what else is true? The gift of two or four or nine kids. Every family has its own purpose, its own collection of gifts it can receive and experience.
This gift of parenting doesn’t have to be a comparison. I can revel in the gift of one as others can revel in the gift of their little gaggle.
Parenting—full stop, no numbers after it—is a gift. Period. It is our number one mission field, our greatest joy, our daily puzzle. It is where I am most easily present because I don’t want to miss a moment, and it’s where I find my biggest dream coming true.
So I’ve owned the very real truth that parenting one is a real thing.
I’ll be the mom God made me to be, and I’ll do it well. I’ll make mistakes. I’ll have a lot of fun with it. I’ll second-guess myself and be proud of myself. And in every moment, I’ll know it’s the greatest grace my heart will ever hold here on earth.