The Power of One: A Mother’s Journey with an Only Child

The Power of One: My One and Only Daisy
BY HF Contributing Writer, Dana Pilson

I knew it would happen someday, I just didn’t expect it so soon. Returning home from a boisterous sledding adventure with our next-door-neighbor’s children, my five-year-old daughter Daisy bursts into tears. “Why don’t I have a playmate at home?” she wonders. “Why does everyone else have a playmate at home, and I only have you. You’re boring. You’re BORING!”

Okay, deep breath. Hurt feelings aside (I know I’m not a world-class clown, but I still wouldn’t classify myself as boring…) I ask, “Are you jealous of Kira, because she has her big brother?”

“Yes. I didn’t want to come home. There’s nothing to do here.” She crosses her arms, puffs our her lips, and pouts.

“Sweetheart, I know it doesn’t seem fair. Kira and Evan certainly have a lot of fun together, and we have a lot of fun with them, but I can assure you, they don’t always get along. And he’s older, there are probably things he wants to do on his own, without his little sister always tagging along.”

“I want a playmate, too.” She sniffles.

“And even if we had a baby tomorrow, you would have to wait two or three years before you could play together, anyway,” I continue. I feel like I’m flailing, grasping at straws. It’s so hard and I’m trying to keep it together, resisting the urge to crumple and cry myself.

“I don’t want a baby sister, I want a big sister!” she yells, sobbing again.

I pull her to me, then lift her up onto the kitchen counter, so we are face-to-face. “I love you sweetheart, and it hurts to see you so upset. But right now, you are our only kid, and we love you so very much!”

“But you’re still boring. I don’t want to play with you anymore.”

Where to go from here? To tell the truth, I’d always wanted a houseful of kids, and never envisioned this. I’d always thought that the idea of an only child was sad and depressing. I grew up with an older brother and a younger sister, and though we fought like feral cats, we always had each other for company, no matter what. Only children were a rarity in our suburban town. In fact I didn’t get to know an only child until my roommate at boarding school. Her father worked for a hotel company, and at the time they were living overseas, in Dubai or Bahrain. She was mature beyond our years, with long legs like a racehorse. The guys lusted after her, she was smart and outgoing and beautiful and perfectly adjusted. I realized being an only couldn’t have been so terrible. But it still wasn’t what I envisioned for my own future family.

It is Daisy’s father who insists on one. Distant with his affections and emotions, he had trouble bonding with her as an infant. He consistently avows that when she gets older, it will be better. Always: when she’s talking, when she’s three, when she’s in Kindergarten. And it never gets better. They argue and scream at each other. Daisy uses drama and misbehavior to get his attention, but it backfires. He gets frustrated and takes away favorite toys as punishment. Seeing her American Girl Doll confiscated in the closet brings me to tears. He does not want another child, and in our mid forties, we are getting to the point of having it impossible, anyway. He is not at all interested in adopting a child, something I’d always hoped to do.  So it is most likely not in the cards for us. But how to explain this to Daisy?

I take a deep breath, “Daddy and I have decided that we only want one child, and that child is you. We both love you very much. I don’t know if we’ll ever have another.”

More sobs. She gets down off the counter and goes to a corner to look at a book. She sniffles and finds a tissue to blow her nose. Her eyes are red and her blond hair is tousled. I resist the urge to go to her, suspecting that she needs some time alone.

A moment passes.

“Mom?” she says, looking up. “Could you please read this book to me?”

I go over and settle in on the couch next to her, planting a kiss on her forehead. “Of course,” I say, fighting back my own tears.

“I love you Mom. I’ll always love you. You’re all I need. I love you as far as little Pluto, and back.”

She rests her head on my shoulder as we read the first chapter of “The Land of the Big Red Apple,” the continuing story of Laura and Almanzo Wilder, and their only daughter, their beloved Rose.



Dana “Dee” Pilson

Dee lives with her professor husband and young daughter in rural Pownal, Vermont, just over the state line from Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an art historian and has worked in museums in New York City, Boston, and Williamstown. She has been an avid writer since the tender age of eight, filling journals with personal essays and short stories, as well as mounds of poetry, both serious and whimsical. New Yorker by birth, New Hampshire-ite by schooling, and now Vermonter by choice, Dee writes about art and architecture, the environment, books, food, exercise, travel, and green living. Her new blog, “The Power of One,” focuses on issues related to parenting an only child in today’s child-centric world.

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