I am the mother of a wonderful 3-year-old boy who is an only child and may remain so. I have heard co-workers remark that every child needs a sibling and that it is cruel to have only one child. These comments make me question whether I am a bad mother. I usually keep my thoughts to myself, as I teach in a public school and want to maintain good relationships. What are polite ways to respond to nosy questions or ignorant comments without offending my colleagues?
A.D. / Easton
“Wow. That’s personal.” Then stare at them with wide open eyes until they stammer an apology. Or a defense. Then say, “I just don’t think, as teachers, it’s a good idea to be openly judgmental about other people’s family configurations.” Because, you know, it’s not a good idea, to the point that you might want to talk to administration about it. School teachers openly bashing other people’s family choices — unacceptable. So very much not a good look.
As Miss Conduct, I’m frustrated when people think that accepting rude behavior graciously is somehow “taking the high road.” It isn’t! It’s simply making it more likely that the bully will bully again, having received little resistance in the past. If you can’t stand up for yourself in a particular situation, that’s one thing. But when you can, do. Because you aren’t just protecting yourself. You’re protecting the bully’s next victim, and the one after that.
Now, are you up for a little unsolicited advice from an only child herself? Kids are usually happy with whatever family they’ve got, and often just as happy to blame said family for their normal developmental miseries. In other words, if your son complains some day about the misery of only-childhood, know that in an alternate timeline he has a little sister and is wailing just as loudly about how she ruined his life.
Whatever you do, when people ask why you only had one child, for the love of all that’s holy don’t reply, “Because we did it right the first time,” as my mother did. I wanted to fall through a hole in the floor whenever she did that.Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.