Nine years ago I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. My boyfriend didn’t stick around, and life moved pretty fast after that. To this day, it’s still just 9-year-old Jack and me — a perfect little twosome family. We operate like a well-rehearsed ballet most days. Teamwork is our mission statement.
I work as a health journalist, date sometimes, and I’m the loudest baseball mom in the stands. None of this makes up for the fact that my Derek Jeter, LEGO-obsessed, spitfire son wants a sibling.
Jack asks for a brother or sister, like it’s as easy as picking the perfect, most luscious strawberry in a honeysuckle field.
But it’s not. Obviously.
I’ve heard it all while I rush-cook dinner or search for a missing sneaker: “I want a brother! Ben and Dan are twin brothers that even look alike, Mom. And they have a sister and a dog!” Jack said. “And a dad and a mom — and a pool.” Whoa! Tall order.
“I’m bored,” he complains. “There’s no one to ever play with,” he sulks, even though we go to the park all the time and I make play-dates and sports a priority to keep him busy with peers. And I play with him: checker tournaments, soccer, long runs on the beach, reading, and day trips galore. He’s not some sad solo kid looking out the window, as the neighborhood kids ignore him — no way.
He routinely throws it in my face that I have two brothers, “Why can’t I?!”
The truth is, I want another baby and I would have one solo, but it’s a financial responsibility I can’t swing right now.
Plus, the idea of a “happily ever after” with a partner to lay my head next to at night — and help with 3 AM feedings — isn’t lost on me.
Since I couldn’t call the stork for a special delivery, I did the next best thing. I got him a fish named Leo. But he died. Then the replacement fish Jingles died. “Fish aren’t fun, anyway!” he said, before pushing through the door, ball in hand to play with a friend outside.
I did a little soul-searching and remembered how much my childhood golden retriever, Brandy, meant to me. Yes, I had brothers, but I was the only girl, so Brandy became my girl and for a moment, I imagined how Jack felt. So I researched purebred golden retriever puppies and spontaneity got the best of me.
Days later, I placed a ball of blond fur in his arms and said, “She’s all yours!”
We named her Lucia, but call her Lucy. She quickly became Jack’s fur-ever sibling.
The first couple of days were marked with puppy pee, crying in the crate at 4 AM, razor sharp teeth nipping — and a lot more mischief.
It was like having a newborn all over again and Jack was grumpy when she woke him up in the night. It also took him getting used to freshening up the water bowl and picking up poop. “Ew gross, this smells likes farts and grass!”
“Jack, if we had a newborn here, you’d be changing smelly poop diapers! This is what having a little sibling is all about,” I said.
“Oh,” he said, making an ack! face, contorting his lips sideways. I rolled my eyes.
Lucy quickly fell in love with Jack’s stuffed monkey that he’s had since he was a baby. And my flip-flops — all of my flip-flops. And apparently toilet paper is cooler than any squeaky toy or Kong. Again I explained that siblings share toys and make messes big brothers have to clean up because the little sister doesn’t know better.
“What?!” he barked.
I pointed to the living room where toilet paper snow fell from the ceiling. “Get to it, kid,” I said handing him a waste basket while I cradled Lucy.
He gave her a dirty look.
“Lots of toddlers color on the walls, which is Lucy’s version of shredded toilet paper,” I told him.
“Right,” he said, starting to get that having a sibling isn’t all pillow forts, ice cream, and secret passwords to enter the tree house.
Jack clearly got a kick out of me disciplining Lucy, though. “No, no, no!” I said to her for a list of things. Now there was someone else in the house going in the crate — or in Jack’s world, having the iPad revoked.
“Mom! Lucy ate my homework,” Jack screamed one day, tears rolling down his cheeks. (This wasn’t BS. She ate his homework and pooped out common core math.)
As for our single parent household that was once pretty harmonious and chill, it got a little more tense and loud. Brothers and sisters fight, right? I sure did with mine, when I was a kid.
But really good stuff came too, and far outweighed the chaos. They are best friends — playing tug of war with the rope toy and fetch with his smelly, sweaty socks.
To say there’s a lot of love would be an understatement.
The no bed rule lasted about a month. Jack has a cuddle buddy on rainy movie days and someone to just keep him company when he builds LEGOs. The two even made use of his old chunky toddler LEGOs, playing “Puppy Demolisher,” in which Jack builds a giant tower and Lucy rams it. He hits baseballs off the tee and she fetches them. They share ice cream cones, too (Jack not seeing the slobbery grossness in this at all.)
And I admit, as a single mom, Lucy keeps me company, too. We binge-watch Netflix series together when Jack is fast asleep by 8:30 PM, and she sits at my feet while I work.
Now 2 years old, Lucy made our little family a little bigger. Jack still wants a sibling, but asks less because he is distracted by his awesome soccer-playing dog and how neighborhood kids stop to hug her and tell him she’s the coolest dog around.
Me? My baby pangs have lessened, but aren’t completely gone. I’d kind of settle for a yard full of loving, pleasing, so-cute golden retriever puppies and a happy, thriving Jack.