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"Being the baby stinks!" wailed Buddy, the youngest of my nine children.

"I'm not a baby, I'm gonna be 9 and all I want is to be an "only child.' "

Buddy was right, he wasn't a baby any more. He was almost 70 pounds, 4 1/2 -feet-tall, with a muscular physique that made him look older than he was. His bright blue eyes sparkled with mischief most of the time.

Buddy was my baby, but I decided to find a way to give him a taste of being "an only child."

Being the mother of nine children is a big job. There's always someone who "needs you, right NOW Mom" and something always needs to be found, mended, put-together or laundered. So having "an only child" even for a day was going to be a unique experience for me, too.

My daughter Katie was attending Brockport State College at the time, and I was her ride home. Here was my chance to let Buddy pretend he was an "only child," for the day. He loved the idea.

Our seven-passenger station wagon was in the shop, so I rented a car. We would be driving in a brand new, dark green Taurus four-door sedan with tan upholstery. It still had that wonderful "new car" smell. Buddy grinned from ear to ear. "All right!" he said.

Buddy came up with a story about, "having no brother or sisters, but a "cousin" Katie who needed a ride home from school.

The morning we left, he was up with the sun and ready to go - with enough supplies for a week of camping.

I asked him how it felt to be an only child after we'd been on the road for awhile.

"Great, Mom! My friend Joe is an only child, and he has lots of toys and he doesn't have to share them or his Mom and Dad with anyone else," he replied.

"And he can watch what he wants to on TV and no one comes and changes the channel. No dumb brothers push him around or sisters tell him what to do and to wait his turn, either. And he can have all the ice cream and cookies and cereal he wants. He can get the biggest piece of pizza, too!"

"So, it sounds like an only child would have a lot of stuff, wouldn't he?" I asked.

"Yeah," Buddy answered, that special grin spreading across his face and his eyes looking dreamy.

I began to wonder if I had only one child, would that child "own" me? With nine kids I can choose who goes to the store and who stays home. (Some combinations work better than others.) And if they fight, I can always separate them into groups of twos and threes.

It was beginning to sound like Buddy might not want to to return to being the youngest of nine, so I decided it was time to start stressing the joys of a large family.

"We have fun when everyone is home, don't we?," I asked him. "I know it gets crowded and noisy, but I really like being a part of a big family, don't you? There's always someone to talk or play games with. And to hug you when you need one."

Buddy sighed and said, "Hummm."

We made it to Brockport early, and found a place to eat. This was the first time Buddy could choose where he wanted to go. Buddy rubbed his head, then his chin. His eyes gleamed with excitement.

"Could we go to Wendy's and get the cool toy, then to Burger King for double cheeseburgers and fries?" I couldn't think of a reason to tell him no, so we stopped at both places.

"We still have time to go shopping," I said as we pulled up to the shopping center. I knew I was in trouble when we could hear puppies barking.

There were puppies of every size and color. Buddy had eyes for a little tan Cocker Spaniel named Sugar.

Sugar's soulful eyes and giant paws stole Buddy's heart. Buddy turned to me. "I've always wanted a puppy. Mom, can we take Sugar home with us, PLEASEEEEE?"

"Let's walk around and look at the toys first. I need to think about this," I said. I knew he wasn't going to forget about the puppy, but I was desperate.

"Oh, Mom, she's pretty and smart, too. Listen to her call me, she wants to go home with us. Please Mom, an only child would be able to have a puppy!"

I sighed, I melted, and I almost gave in.

"Buddy, I'm sorry, but we have a long ride, in a rented car, and all of Katie's stuff, and I can't bring a puppy home with us. This is one time the words "only child' can't work magic for you, Buddy."

I could see his disappointment. I felt my heart aching. My resolve to be strong was beginning to weaken; I knew how much he wanted a dog.

But Buddy didn't argue. "OK, Mom. But can I still get a toy?" he said.

Buddy found some "really cool" race cars and was happy again. We picked up "cousin" Katie. When we got home, my "only child" said, "Mom, I had a great time being an only kid today and I knew we didn't have your car so we couldn't bring Sugar home. When we do get a puppy, Mom, I want everyone to get to pick it out, not just me.

"I guess having brothers and sisters isn't so bad. But Mom, I sure hope we can get a dog some day."

I was glad he had his dream of being an only child fulfilled, but as for the puppy, that was a wish for another day.

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