When I was little, in the late '50’s and early ‘60’s, we played with baby dolls. Barbie made her first appearance when I was three, and it would be several more years before she gained popularity in Greer, SC. Stuffed animals were virtually nonexistent in our sphere, so we played house and school with our baby dolls. One of my fondest memories is of my grandmother handing me a box that Santa had left for me. She was almost excited as I was as I opened the box and inhaled the scent that would forever define Christmas for me – an intoxicating blend of cotton and rubber. Even now, I describe that scent as “Christmas baby doll.”
Inside the box lay the most wondrous baby doll I had seen in my few years on this earth. She had blond hair and blue eyes that opened and closed. I imagine she was dressed, but I do not remember the outfit. Right then and there, with all the reasoning and logic of a five-year-old, I named her “Kitten.” Kitten is the only baby doll I ever remember having. I’m sure there must have been others, but, really, it was only Kitten that I loved. I never lined up my dolls and toys and “taught “them as we played school. There was only one that needed to be cuddled and fed, and scolded. Only one. Even as a child, I had an only child.
As an adult thinking about marriage and children, I never once imagined myself with more than one child. I knew people who began planning a second as soon as their first one turned eighteen months or so. I often heard that only children were lonely. They needed someone to play with. They would be selfish. They would learn to get along with people better if they had a sibling or two. While I respected their opinions and choices, I was not swayed. I would have an only child.
My mother, my mother-in-law, and grandmother-in-law were all only children. They all made it known that they expected me to have more than one baby. My own mother went so far as to demand that I have a boy since her other three grandchildren were girls.
But one it would be.
I have not thought about that choice very much. It was just pretty much what I knew would happen. It wasn’t a matter of having enough money, or wanting to assure (as far as possible) social intelligence, or, well, anything. It was the very best decision I could have made.
Once my precious Margaret was born, I was done. She was, is, and ever shall be my light, my soul, my heart. She is one of the best people I know. She adapted perfectly well to being an only child. She had many friends then and now. She did have a huge vocabulary because she was mostly with adults, but I just don’t see that as a drawback.
Trusting yourself is sometimes hard when you really do love and want to please other people. I spoke with a young couple not long ago who were being pressured to have another baby. They were resentful and uncomfortable at the same time. They didn’t want to have another baby, but the clock was ticking and if they were going to have another, they should do it soon. That’s way too complicated. That kind of thinking is stressful and unnecessary. I’m pretty sure most people can be trusted to know when their family is complete. For some people that will be a houseful of children-- all of whom are unique and precious. As for me, I knew when Margaret was born that my family had become what it was meant to be.
We should never listen to any except our own hearts where children are concerned. My heart has been full to overflowing for twenty-nine years, and it tells me that one has always been enough.
Yvonne Mason is a mother of one, grandmother of two, and teacher of thousands. She resides in Greenville, SC where she teaches English and is heavily involved in soccer, from her eldest grandson's recreational league all the way up to the Atlanta United and beyond. Known as "Bunny" to her grandchildren, she spends as much time with them as she can and visits with them frequently.