Hi my darling, my only child. I love you so, so much.
All through the first months of this pandemic, you’ve adapted to a tremendous amount of change.
You’ve gone from being surrounded by classmates all day to being in the constant presence of adults, with no access to your peers.
You’ve had video chats with friends and classmates, but otherwise, you’ve had no one to talk to but us, your parents.
You’ve gone from a rich calendar of school, after-school activities, sports and scouts to solitary schoolwork with headphones, followed by hours of uninterrupted, unscheduled free time while your dad and I frantically try to stay on top of work.
You’ve been forced to give up playing with other kids on playgrounds and soccer fields and the schoolyard, and now you play by yourself every day.
I never regretted our decision to have just one child—we’ve got a wonderful life with you, and I wouldn’t change it. But now I’m wondering if it’s okay for you to go without interacting in-person with other children for so long.
Experts have reassured us that you’ll be fine. Children are naturally social, yes, but they are also naturally adaptable, too. And while there are no long-term scientific studies (yet) focusing on singleton kids in extended isolation from their peers, research has proven over and over again that only children are just as capable of handling big changes as kids with siblings.
Other experts point out that in some ways, only children may actually benefit in this situation—with fewer kids to compete with for parental attention, their emotional needs might be met that much faster. And still other experts note that every summer when school lets out, many kids take a three-month break from their socially-intense schedules in favor of hanging out mostly with their parents, and everybody makes out just fine.
So much for the experts. There’s also what I can see just from observing you, my wonder, my sweetheart. And the truth is, you seem…really great.
Like most onlies, you have always been happy to play by yourself. And you’ve always loved reading and spending whole afternoons traveling on long flights of imagination. How many times this month have I interrupted you while you were quietly engrossed in some kind of play—thinking you’d be grateful for some attention or human interaction—and been met with a ferocious scowl? “Mama! I’m playing! Can you please close the door?” Just like old times.
I admit there are times during these strange and terrible days when I have to wonder if you’re really as okay as you seem to be.
I also have to ask myself, over and over again, how we got so lucky.
Because I feel like I could take some lessons from you in adapting to change. You’ve had your sad moments—we all have—but I’ve never seen anything as remarkable as your ability to adapt, to find adventure in the most aimless of neighborhood walks and to make fun out of nothing at all.
I love how you’ve risen to the challenge of this time. You jump into action, helping to make dinner whenever I ask you. You always have creative ideas for spending time together as a family—”Something with no screens, please, I’ve been working on school stuff all day!” And when I got aggravated at something this morning, you calmly suggested, “Mama, maybe you should drink a glass of water.”
I can only hope that spending so much time in close proximity with your grownups will help you on the journey to your own adulthood. It doesn’t seem crazy or harmful to imagine that one of the long-term effects of this time might be that you will become a little more self-sufficient, a little more mature. Our grown-up-ness might rub off on you in helpful ways, just as your blessed ability to roll with change is (hopefully) rubbing off on us.
You’ve taught me so much about my own endurance and my own ability to master my fears. You’ve taught me, by example, how to appreciate a moment of quiet in a full, busy life.
Even with all the uncertainty and anxiety swirling around us, all this extra time we’ve gotten to spend with you has been a gift—a truly precious, unexpected thing, in spite of the stress.
Thank you, my sweet girl. My strong, funny, adaptable only child. My heart’s dearest love.