I have an only child and being home during the pandemic made me realize how lonely life might be for her

insider@insider.com (Amy Klein)
Author Amy Klein has one daughter and being home during the pandemic has her worried that her child will grow up feeling lonely without a sibling.

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My daughter isn't really listening to her teacher's lesson about zoo animals. 

Instead, she's honing in on all the other 4- and 5-year-olds year olds in her class in gallery mode on Zoom, a remote meeting app. Some are sitting on older siblings' laps, others have toddlers running around behind them or babies crying in the background. 

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I'm glad my daughter's school is organizing these remote "meetings," even for the preschoolers, amid the coronavirus pandemic when classes have been canceled. But it makes me sad to watch her watch the other children who have company at home besides their parents. 

It's times like these that make me wish my daughter had a sibling. 

I had always hoped to have 2 children, and even transferred 2 embryos during each round of IVF

I had always planned on having two kids. But "planned," is a funny word, though, when it takes you four years and 10 doctors to have a baby. Every time I underwent in vitro fertilization, I transferred two embryos, hoping for twins. Even though multiples carry a number of risks, including premature birth and developmental delays for children, and a high-risk pregnancy for the mom, I was willing to still try.

What if twins were my only chance for a second kid?

During each of my pregnancies, I only carried singletons; and it was only my fifth one that granted me my daughter. To say we were overjoyed with her — we are overjoyed with her – would be an understatement. 

Even during these trying times — living in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with no backyard in New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, with two working-at-home parents — my daughter is happy. She's content playing at home, building Legos, destroying our couch pillows to build a fort, coloring with nail polish (oh no, not the red!). I marvel at her independence, her pure joy and her intelligent wit. 

coronavirus NYC

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Ever since she was born, though, I thought about trying again (which really means going to the doctor and doing it all over in a lab). But it was never the right time.

For the first two years of my daughter's life, my husband didn't think we were ready. Then, I was working on a book about infertility, then my doctor died. Now, it's the coronavirus, when most fertility treatment has stopped, and high-risk people like me — who tend to need hospital services on standby — have been advised not to get pregnant right now at all (even if I could, naturally.) 

In the scheme of things, with so many people getting sick and dying, I know we are lucky. The ill, the elderly, the impoverished, and the vulnerable are facing the unimaginable. I also know it's not easy for my single friends to be social distancing when they live alone. It's especially hard for childless couples whose dreams have been put on hold as IVF clinics have shut down.

Being home with my daughter now has made me acutely aware of how lonely life might be for my single child

Amy Klein struggled with infertility and it took her four years to have a baby.

Amy Klein

But when I'm stuck inside, coloring or monitoring princess outfit change No. 537, or playing "hide and seek" (mostly just "hide" because sometimes I'm working and forget to look for her), my heart goes out most to my daughter. 

At times like these, I feel we're not enough. 

This pandemic puts our family into a spotlight: It really is just us, I see, no matter what my plans might have been. 

Now, my daughter is happy as a clam to be with one of us at all times. 

"I want to hug you all day long," she just said to me one recent morning. (Mind you, this was after I caved and gave her the forbidden sugar cereal — Cap'n Crunch — for breakfast.) 

I grew up with 3 siblings, and always imagined something similar for my own family

Klein worries that she and her husband might not be "enough" for her daughter.

Amy Klein

This is not what I had pictured when I pictured a family. As the second of four siblings whose parents barely spoke to each other and got divorced when we were already out of the house, I always thought a family meant more than one kid.

Although we were not a happy family, most of the time, I was grateful to have my siblings around to buffer me. Our parents could never focus their angst, depression, unhappiness on just one of us. Being one of several brothers and sisters protected me in the the usual fights about curfew, allowance, and dress codes, helping me get lost in the shuffle. 

My daughter doesn't get lost in the shuffle. She gets all of us, all the time.

Now, while at home, this worries me. She doesn't get interrupted by other siblings when she's talking; she doesn't have to share her toys or wait her turn. For better and sometimes worse. 

My daughter's school emphasizes social development, but she can't get that right now

That was why we picked her school. It focuses on social-emotional development. The first class we observed was about how to give compliments and say "thank you" (that actually made me cry). Every day, the students learn a lesson about teamwork. (Her report card noted that when she "needs assistance, she forgets that the teachers are helping the whole community and we can't help everyone at once.") 

Preschool Class

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No matter how much distance learning is provided though, you can't teach sharing and giving compliments and waiting and hugging over a computer. 

When she watches the pandemonium on the screens in the other houses, my daughter is suddenly aware of what she's missing. Her classmates have playmates, now, even at home, when we can't have playdates. Her classmates have mayhem, interruptions, someone running around in the background without pants or diapers on. Her friends have siblings, and she doesn't. 

I don't know how much it registers for her and for how long — but it does for me.

After the requisite half-hour lesson, we leave "school," and run off to her bedroom to play, together.

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