Over the years, I have written a lot of marketing copy for financial services firms. So, I'm intimately familiar with the concept of "diversification."
Investopedia.com (how cool is that name?) defines it this way:
A risk management technique that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio.
My retirement savings, as modest as they are, benefit from this type of strategy (and, thank goodness, from the steerage of a so-much-smarter-about-money-than-I-am financial advisor). But it occurred to me recently that I forgot to apply the principle of diversification to a rather important part of my life. Parenting.
I am the mother of an only child.
There are certainly pros:
• Only one student's college tuition to plan for. (Although, one student means four years at about $50,000 per year, so this is no very great solace once I do the math.)
• We only have to coordinate all-day field trips to one athlete's events. (I know moms who juggle hockey, dance, swim meets and softball on a regular basis.)
• We were able to afford a horse for our besotted equestrian offspring. (More than one, believe me, would be much more than impossible.)
• Travel, on the other hand, is still possible. After a child is two years old, their seat on an airplane is full fare — regardless of the size of their little tush. A weekend away or a family vacation becomes exponentially more expensive with multiple kids.
• I only have to keep track of one young person's unexplainable eating eccentricities. ("When did you stop liking Pop Tarts? Oh, I know. The week after I bought two double-sized boxes of them.")
• I only have to help with one person's homework. And no, geometry is decidedly not more fun the second time around.
• I only have to nag one person to keep her room clean. (And, in a related observation, I only have to re-make one person's bed on a regular basis.)
Then again, and especially these days, there are also cons. Big ones.
• If I had hoped for a child who shared my love of acting, singing and dancing, well ... that show has opened and closed.
• If I wanted a daughter who would love my hometown, New York City, as I still do. No dice. She is the country cousin to my city mouse.
• And, if I'm persona non gratis for some egregious maternal crime (like taking the video games off of someone's iPhone because she — shall we say — stretched the truth about playing them after hours), then I am thoroughly, completely, totally and universally despised.
Aye, there's the rub.
An old friend of mine, one whose intelligence I have always respected and admired, apparently put more care into planning all this than I did. With her four children (and several more now thanks to a recent remarriage), she has managed to enjoy all the ups even in times of downs. For example, when her eldest daughter was a teenage pill, her younger ones still doted on her. Now that they are teens themselves, their older sister is coming back around.
I love this friend very very much. But, I am very very jealous.
Of course, the situation puts undue pressure on my daughter as well. She has to be "the smart one," "the athletic one," "the kind-hearted one," "the artistic one." When it comes to siblings, there's no one else for her to share these daunting roles with. She has to be every type of superlative offspring all in one.
It's a little late now, but I confess that I sometimes daydream about my "other children," the ones who would remain sweet and affectionate and never fall out of love with me. Alas, all my eggs are in one basket. Actually, there's only one.
Good thing she's a good egg.