A lot of what Ella says gives me a little jolt. She’s saying many things for the first time, such as, “Actually, I think I’ll go play in the rain,” and “It is obviously not an option,” and I haven’t had time to become inured. I mostly think they’re funny.

A couple of weeks ago, though, she asked a question that made me numb for a day and a half.

Trish and Ella were driving back from the playground when Ella said, “Mom, would you have a baby so I have someone to play with?”


Trish cried. I’ve written about our chances of becoming pregnant naturally. It’s just not going to happen. The window is closed. And we’re both not entirely comfortable with fertility or implantation. We were also uneasy with adoption, a path we started down before we took that trip to Vermont.

So, it’s most probable that Ella will be an only child.

I was hoping she wouldn’t notice. That’s probably called denial. Now our cover is blown. Left exposed, Ella’s request cut into me more deeply than I could have imagined.

Ella is cueing in on this thanks to our neighbors. There are two little girls across the street that Ella loves to play with. Unlike the other two up the block, these are well mannered, outgoing, intelligent little kids. But they’re in transition, moving from Virginia. Their family is living with the dad’s parents until the family buys a house. The older girl, whom Ella likes better, just started kindergarten. The other day I heard Ella say, while she was playing by herself, “Maya, you cannot go to kindergarten any more. You stay home and play with me.”


We’ve started breaking it to Ella that the girls will move soon. Their parents found a house in another small town — nearby, but not close.

I feel her pain. Really. I feel it right here, deep. I was practically an only child; my brother is six years older and was thrust into a more mature roll after our parents’ divorce. There were no kids on our street my age. I watched a lot of TV. I grew close to Cookie Monster.

But, I don’t necessarily like my brother, and there’s no guarantee we would have gotten along if we’d been closer in age. Trish makes this same point. What if we deliver a child, one way or another, and it turns out to be the spawn of the devil? That doesn’t do anybody any good. There’s practically a whole genre of Hollywood movies to back this up.

Under “typical” conditions Trish would want another baby. She’s a great mom. It’s difficult for her to see our friends, all younger than we are, having second kids. She swallows hard and puts on a good face. We wonder how some parents handle more than one, because Ella is a handful all by herself, but Trish would figure it out.

Me, I had a rough time as a dad until Ella was 2, until I could relate to her. Fat babies make me nervous. I would have a lot of learning to do, though the curve would be smaller.

Another child wouldn’t just change our whole family dynamic, it would change Ella, permanently. I think. I like Ella the way she is. What if she becomes the bad child? How much do we tempt fate? Is that what it is, fate?