The Push/Pull of Parenthood

The Push/Pull of Parenthood

The Push/Pull of Parenthood

It never fails.

Roxie leaves with her (usually) brushed hair floating behind her, mismatched socks on under her “rock & roll” shoes, day care bag ready to go, and a, “bye bye meatball spaghetti” yell as the door clicks closed. In her wake, there is (usually) a whirlwind of pajamas (plural), princess crowns, and tiny little ponies. Sometimes glitter.

Roxie_TongueOut_2015

My patience is always tested these mornings as we slowly prod our sweet toddler out the door. But the minute I turn and exhale a sigh of relief, my heart tightens. I catch my breath. It’s quiet. She’s gone. And, somehow, also: It’s quiet! She’s gone!

I’m repeatedly baffled at this. I call it the “Push/Pull of Parenthood.” I’m utterly crazy about something my kid did and utterly crazy-in-love about something my kid did, all at the same time.

RoxieCookieMonster

Benji and I talk about it – parenting – a lot. So much talk around raising a child! It’s crazy how parenting has really grown to become this Skill you need to literally study. Except the class is all quiz/no Q&A. Being a parent makes me feel isolated and at one with the earth simultaneously. Totally content and totally restless. It’s the hardest thing and the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. Ever. How can it be all these things, all the time?

We’re currently at this point in our lives where we decide whether or not to have another kid. Society says, “Go for it! Two or more kids is the norm! Procreate!” Logic says, “No f*&king way; it’s too hard; you’ve got a good thing going, and you should just quit while you’re ahead!” And the heart…well…the heart is a sneaky beast that doesn’t share its real feelings. It ghosts around saying, “Oh, shouldn’t there be one more little pair of legs running up that hill? Don’t you want your daughter to have a sibling? To grow? To understand how to deal with another human being in her immediate proximity, pretty much all the time?”

RoxDad

Hormones and hearts are often confused. And always confusing. I’m going to be 35 this month, Roxie will be four this summer, and Benji…well, he doesn’t want to be 40 chasing a baby (he’s 38 this month).

So, because I’m a journalist, I’m doing research. I’ve read the book One and Only by Lauren Sandler (an only who has an only), met with (dare I say I’ve interviewed) at least three parents of only kids here in Decorah, have chatted with parents who have two or more, have googled “should I have another child” more times than I’m willing to admit (this post is great!), and I’ve brought it up to pretty much anyone who is willing to listen (“How many siblings do you have? Do you get along? Do you have kids?” Sorry grocery store checkout person, random on the street, and four-year-old at the park!). Now, finally, I’m writing about it.

And I’m hoping to write about it more as we continue trying to find the right answer for us. That last part is key! Every family is different. That said, got any advice? I welcome any and all that doesn’t make me sad-cry. Sad-cry comments will be deleted before they hit my cerebral cortex (or whatever part of my brain controls these crazy emotions…). There’s no right or wrong, for sure, and that’s part of why I’m writing about it – it’s important for you all to know that too! Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has said, “I don’t envy your decision!” If you’re in the same boat, I wish you luck!

More soon.

XOXO,
Aryn

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13 Comments

Cerrisa Snethen

Aryn: this is so wonderful! You are so wise to be weighing & measuring this carefully! I think ultimately, there will be no wrong choice. There can’t be, can there? In the end, it will be what you did. And it will be the wonderful life that you knew and cultivated with love and intention. It’s going to be awesome because YOU are awesome & your family is terrific with your sites set on positivity & adventure & good, good things. Hats off!

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Aryn Henning Nichols

Aw, thanks, Cerrisa! I’m excited about this wonderful life, whatever we choose! XO

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Olga Michels

Hey Aryn!
Love your post, so true in so many ways. What a struggle, all the best in the decision that IS so personal and so truly different for each family. Us being a blended family, it’s a bit different. Izzy is 1 year old now (and I am 41, Daniel 38). Izzy has 2 half siblings who are much older (12 and 14) and that is our family. I love Izzy to death and she is my life right now, but at 41, it is a little tough, and I really don’t think I could do it again. We plan to make the best of what we have, and get Izzy lots of playmates along the way in different ways, but no sibling her own age. Just our approach, but there are days when I can’t believe we don’t have a baby anymore, and my heart thinks maybe we should. Good luck friends!!

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Aryn Henning Nichols

Thanks, Olga! I hear you…getting older makes it so much harder! It’s such a tough choice, but I think we’re getting pretty excited about the one-child thing – there are lots of benefits too!

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Sara Goldberg

So much truth in this post! As you know, I’ve got three. Which makes me sometimes think I’m insane. I often throw my hands in the air and say “there are too many!” But there is something really magical about watching a child you have known as your one and only become a sibling (and then again if you have more). And it is magical to witness how making room to love another child changes you and your partner as parents – and to witness how parenting a child who is totally different from the last one calls on you to re-learn things you thought you knew. I have no doubt having only one child is magical in ways I don’t and can’t know. But having more than one is what I know, and I love it, so I’m adding my little vote for adding that multi-kid magic to your lives.
Truth alert: It is harder in a lot of ways for a long time. Harder than just having your first. But also…the magic…. And at some point they play with each other and leave you alone! 😉

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Aryn Henning Nichols

I know! The magic of siblings together! It’s hard not to want that…thanks for your input, Sara!

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Elizabeth

I think this “But also…the magic…. And at some point they play with each other and leave you alone!” from Sara might be a MAJOR advantage that having multiples have that we don’t always recognize. I had a very thoughtful friend of one mention that so many parents of multiples complain about the extra work, but in truth- the siblings do play with each other and leave us alone. And- there is nothing like listening to sibling conversations- amazing.

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Tabita Green

Thanks for sharing your struggles with such a personal (but common) decision so openly. I come from a family of five siblings, and always wanted to have more than one child. However, once we had Rebecka, we were thinking like you, we’ve got a good thing going here! I don’t think there is a right/wrong decision. We’re happy with the way things are—and as younger parents, we’re barely forty and empty nesting. There’s something to be said for that as well. 🙂 All the best as you continue to ponder.

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Aryn Henning Nichols

I come from a family with four siblings…I always thought I’d have four as well! Ha! Then we got married and I said, well, maybe just two. And then we had one and I still thought…well, probably two. Now, while considering just one is sort of scary, it’s also liberating. There are so many personal – and married – benefits to having just one child! Of course, I’m sure there are many to having more than one too, but to test our luck seems terrifying. We know we can do this (one kid), right now, in this business, in this house, in this (great) life, and possibly still get to do some of the other things we want to do too. Thank you so much for your input, Tabita!

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Val Miller

You will make the right choice for you! However, if it’s the best thing you have ever done, why wouldn’t you want to do it again? I don’t feel that our number two has added too much (stress-wise) and in fact, even though we are only a year into number two, I actually cherish these moments more than with the first because I am much more relaxed. And don’t worry too much about age – it is just a number.

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Aryn Henning Nichols

I know, right? You guys amaze me with all your business-running and baby-having abilities! I’ve still got all the baby things in storage…even the crib lives in a corner of our bedroom (because our house only has two bedrooms, doh!). Thanks for chiming in here – we definitely look to our fellow entrepreneur families for guidance!

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Kate Duffert

I was an only child until the age of 13. My parents were 40 and 47 when we welcomed my little brother into the world. My brother and I have vastly different memories of what family vacations are. We practically exist in different generations. But I love him to pieces. As an only I spent a lot of time with my parents and also a lot of time alone. Both things I am thankful for. With my much younger brother I have a whirlwind of parenting experience that most people in their late 20s without kids don’t have. I love having a brother and wouldn’t change it for the world, but we don’t have the same sibilant experience as my husband and his sisters (3 kids born within 4 years!). I will tell you that I wonder what it would have been like to share stories with others, to have a common bond, to have someone to look back on family moments with who shares my perspective. But I’m not sure I would be the independent, self-entertaining extrovert I have become nor have the closeness with my parents that I do if I had siblings closer in age.

So moral of the story. Whatever you decide will work out okay. No matter what, with excellent parents like you, Roxie alone or Roxie and siblings will have a great childhood to look back on.

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Aryn Henning Nichols

One of my biggest worries over the whole thing is that Roxie will miss out on those shared stories – although my siblings and I aren’t best friends, I do like them and we did have some fun together! I’m about five years younger than my closest sibling though (I’m the youngest), and I don’t remember playing with that closest-in-age sister much (I need to ask her if she remembers it differently). If we were to get pregnant right now, we’d have that same age spread for our two kids (but what if it were twins! Gah!)…so I don’t really see the “they’ll play together” argument coming true too much for us. I actually often said to my friends in high school, “I’m basically an only child right now” because I was the only one still home. My parents and I have a great relationship because of that, I think. I do like having people to commiserate/wax nostalgia with over the ways we grew up, though. I so appreciate your comment, Kate! Thank you!

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