It was bedtime and I was lazily reading a book to my daughter as the snow fell softly outside. I was cozy and warm and thinking about how this was one of those moments of motherhood that I truly savored. And then she said, “how come I don’t have any friends that live with me?” I instantly knew what she meant. She was asking why she didn’t have a sibling. I wasn’t ready for this conversation and I didn’t seem to be able to come up with an answer.
I hastily replied that all of our friends slept in their own homes, pretending not to know what she really meant. She pondered that answer for a moment and subsequently hit me right in the gut. “No, I mean like our friends that live together. How come we are the only ones with only one?” A wave of sorrow washed over me that I hadn’t expected. I had all my reasons readily available for those rude people who asked me why we only had one child. None of them seemed to fit. Everything I had in my arsenal suddenly sounded like empty excuses.
Even worse was the feeling that she was coming from a place of longing.
She had wanted a sister or a brother just like all of her other friends. I had heard women for years talking about how they would be gifting a sibling to their lonely, only-children. I thought they were full of it. They had somehow wanted a child for themselves, but used their existing children to make excuses to have another. I realized that I had been wrong. Tears made their way up to my eyes, but I didn’t show them to her. I deflected by saying she had me and daddy, but I knew it wasn’t the same.
For the first time in my life I began to feel regret. I had made so many mistakes in my past, yet I had never regretted anything. But now I felt it. A crushing guilt that I never expected. I couldn’t give her what she wanted and even possibly what she needed. As she looked around at her friends, she realized that she wasn’t the same. She had never uttered the words brother or sister. It was then that I realized she would never have someone to look after her in school. She would never have a chance to teach a younger sibling something she already knew. In fact, she would never be a real aunt to anyone or know what it feels like to love a sibling the way I had loved mine. It had been me who had taken that away from her.
Shortly after, she drifted off to sleep. She was satisfied with my crappy answer, but it didn’t make me feel any better. Many nights after this I tossed and turned into the wee hours of the morning. I quietly let the tears slide down my cheek with the bitter taste of regret in my mouth. The recognition of the lasting impact that my decisions had made on someone else.