I am about to make a statement I have made so many times in my life I have lost track.
I am an only child.
Some of my favorite responses to that statement are:
+ A nodding, knowing Ohhh.... Sometimes their eyes roll and they try to cover it up, other more brazen souls don't even try to hide the eye rolling
+ A forlorn Oh you poor thing growing up without anyone to play with... followed by a short tsk and a sudden urge to hug me
+ A snarky So you always got everything you wanted, I had to share everything with 5 siblings, must have been nice... already envisioning me sitting upon piles and piles of unshared toys waving my magical golden glittered only child wand at the Sears catalogue as all my earthly desires materialized before my only child eyes
Throughout the years, my patented response became Yes, I am an only child. I sure hope I don't act like one. Somewhere along the way, I learned being an old child was considered by many a bad thing. Or at least a thing that elicited eye rolling, awkward hugs and scoffing.
Although they were high school sweethearts, my parents didn't get married until they were each 29. An age that was considered pretty old for their generation. My mom went off to college, a private all-girls university. I loved hearing her tell stories about it and still do. My Dad went to junior college and worked full time from the minute it was legal and truth be told, probably even before it was legal.
They were married for five years before they had me. Another bold move on their part. I asked my mom once how they made the decision to have one child. She said they knew their family was complete in the way you just know those things.
I remember vividly the story about how much my Dad wanted a little girl. His buddies would say things like, I bet you sure are ready to get that boy here (the age before ultrasounds were the norm). My Dad would respond, You know I sure am hoping it's a girl. Cue the buddies looking at him like he'd lost his mind. I'd hear this story and feel all happy inside knowing the part was coming where I was born and they found out I was a girl and how happy they were. It was the Saturday before Easter Sunday. While my mom and I rested, my Dad went to the finest clothing store in Dothan and bought his little girl's very first Easter dress, a Feltman Brothers.
I grew up baking in the kitchen with my mom, shooting targets in the field with my Dad. Certain of the fact that I was equal parts genteel and feminine, strong and capable.
I had friends and cousins and schoolmates and church friends. We played hard and fought hard and loved hard. Like all kids do. I don't ever remember being lonely, nor did I ever ask for siblings. It never occurred to me. I played well with others, but I could also entertain myself.
I was loved, but I was disciplined. I was taught to share and to be kind to others. To treat other people the way I would want to be treated. My mom was a social worker in foster care for 25 years. I knew there were kids who didn't even have mamas and daddies much less a Teddy Ruxpin. I was taught that they were kids just like me. Deserving of love and kindness and security. I was no more special than they.
Have you ever spent time around kids? They are all pretty selfish. They all must be taught to share whether they have 18 siblings like the Duggars or none like me. They all must learn that to have a friend, it would bode well for them to be a friend. Just because a family has ten kids or one doesn't mean they won't have to work just as hard to teach kindness and selflessness.
I'd love to see our society break down the walls of all manner of stereotypes and knock off our judgy, rolling eyes. Just because a family only has one child doesn't mean it was their choice. They may have struggled with years of infertility and one precious child was all they got. Or maybe one child was exactly what they wanted.
I am an only child. I assure you I have had my fair share of selfish moments both as a child and as an adult, but I highly doubt my lack of siblings is to blame.
Could we practice kindness toward one another? Show grace toward each other when we have a less than attractive selfish moment? I don't think it would hurt any of us to practice the old adages: treat others the way you want to be treated, to have a friend be a friend and in the words of Thumper's father, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
For the record, I never had a magical golden glittered wand.
Although, I admit, it sounds pretty dang amazing.