Much of my angst over failing to conceive another baby has revolved around my desire to give Ethan a sibling. In my mind's eye, from the moment it occurred to me that someday I might be someone's mother, I envisioned being mother to two. When I started writing my first novel (which was never completed) in my late teens, I modeled one of the main characters after my vision of myself in adulthood. She was a suburban mother, to two children. Children she watched play in the back yard from the window over the sink in her kitchen. Even then, as I wrote about her in third person, as a voyeur to the life I hoped to lead one day, I could feel the intense love she felt for both of those children. Fierce love.
These days, I watch Ethan play outside, watching through the sliding porch door, as he pedals his bike around our mini-basketball court, pretending to gas up his Cosy Coupe, crashing his matchbox cars into each other. On his own. And I love him fiercely. And I ache for the companion missing in that backyard with him.
I am an only child. My parents intended to have one child, and they did. My parents went out of their way to make my life full of experiences and rich with friendships. As a little girl, my best friend lived 40 minutes away from me in Lyndeboro, NH, and my parents (or hers) would cart us back and forth to each other's houses almost each and every weekend from the time we were in 2nd grade until we got our own drivers' licenses. When we rented a house at the shore every summer, I was always allowed to bring a friend for the week. In high school, they flew a favorite pen pal up to NH from New Orleans to spend winter vacation with me. They surrendered their living room on countless occasions to a gaggle of giggling teenage girls so that I could be surrounded by friends, if not siblings. And I'm so grateful for that.
But in the day-to-day, I remember feeling lonely. Not all the time. Not desperately. But enough to remember it. Enough to feel my throat close up a little when I watch Ethan wandering around in the back yard, racing against no one, on his scooter. I can't stand the idea of him being lonely. And so I've started becoming obsessive about play dates, and about setting up activities for him. Well, not obsessive--that makes me sound coo-coo, and I'm not (*twitch*twitch*). But I want his life to be filled with giggling and laughter and rambling preschool conversations about rolly-pollies and spaceships. I don't want the word "lonely" to ever be a word he would use to describe his childhood.
We're so fortunate to have next door neighbors who have a little boy about Ethan's age. The possibility of the spontaneous play date is wonderful thing. There is something so homey about playing in the back yard with Ethan and seeing this little boy's blond head pop up over the back fence. He hears Ethan's voice coming from our yard, climbs up his play structure and just starts yelling, "Hey, wanna play?" And of course, Ethan is off like a light, back through our house, out the front door and into the neighbor's yard, almost before I know what's going on. Things like that make me feel better.
We're also lucky that Ethan's got some amazing classmates with fantastic parents. It's almost always possible to find someone to play with, although I am trying to give us a couple days a week without play dates. For awhile I was scheduling them almost every day of the week after school and found that not only were we utterly exhausted, but Ethan was becoming a major pain in the in the general butt region when there wasn't a play date. Demanding a play date, "But you have to make a play date, mommy," or demanding that I step up more in lieu of a play date, "You have to play with me, mommy." There was much hanging on me and clinging to me and barking of demands. So we had a couple of tough, whiney play date-less afternoons, detoxing off the constant stream of playmates. I mean, I want his life to be filled with laughter and companionship, and I want to play with him, too, but I still want him to be able to entertain himself to some extent, right?
I've spent a lot of time considering siblings in the past several months. Never having had one myself, I've always romanticized the idea. Most of my friends growing up had a younger sister or an older brother. My husband has an older sister and for a long time I struggled with their relationship because it was the first time I'd been seriously involved with someone who had a sibling close in age to them. My college boyfriend had a sister I never met once in almost four years of dating him. The boyfriend after college had a much younger brother from his father's second marriage who we only saw on holidays. So when Husband's (then Boyfriend's) sister moved in with us for several months early on in our relationship as she relocated from NYC to DC, I was utterly stumped. And fascinated. It took me a long time to understand their relationship and not feel threatened by it.
I grieve that I won't be able to give Ethan that connection with another human being. Honestly, growing up, I had no idea what I didn't have. I don't recall ever once wishing I had a sister or a brother. As a matter of fact, I recall a lot of times being glad I didn't have to share my bathroom or my allowance or my parents with another kid. I never had to worry about who my parents loved the best or if I was going to make them as proud as a brother or sister would. But now as I brace myself for middle-age, I wish I had that connection to someone.
I hope that Ethan doesn't grow up wishing for something he doesn't have. I hope we're able to fill enough of his days with laughter and experience and friendships that he won't feel the absence of that little brother or sister, that sibling who might have been, in the backyard while he plays alone.