Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stereotypical // Only Child Edition

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.

22 comments:

  1. "to have a friend be a friend", my favorite phrase. i don't believe having no siblings makes you selfish, not being disciplined and spoiled will make you special. besides, you shared all your meat with me!

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  2. I LOVE this post! you are such a wonderful blogger. I vouch for everything you said. YOu have some pretty fantastic parents and they have one wonderful daughter. I like to think they are mine at times. : )

    They raised a great women. I Love hearing stories about them and about you. I love how they taught you the things of our father. I love that they are in my sons life!!! When i think about women that i want to be like my immediate thought goes to your mother. She has the most wonderful spirit. And i love that your dad loves you and her with a fierce and gentle love. They are tremendous people and i pray i do just as good a job with raising herreson as they did with you.


    PS - you really are not the only child, you have so many friends that you make feel so special. I never have felt like just a friend but a sister. Your mom also reminds me that she could not love me more than if she had me herself. SUCH A HUGE COMPLIMENT!!! I LOVE ME SOME MITCHELLS!!! I want to be one!

    PSS- i have always loved that picture of the three of you. One of my favs from yalls session.

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  3. Friends are family that you choose, Mols. You might not have blood siblings, but you have lots of sisters and brothers!

    Please, please, please, think about ways you can spread your word - you are such a gifted storyteller.

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  4. Thank you so much for posting this. I was an only child and this really touched my heart....to tears.

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  5. Colleen- See? I do know how to share.

    Linds- You words are so kind. I think you were adopted by the Mitchell crew a long time ago.

    Val- You are so right. I'm glad you are part of that number. Thank you for your encouragement.

    Mrs. Kee- The pleasure is mine. So glad you feel me.

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  6. molly this is such a sweet post. there are so many stereotypes out there...and i am a middle child. and people say bad things about us. but i think i turned out ok! nobody grows up in the same exact situation, so why does everyone judge??

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  7. I really am loving this post. I was completely selfish as a child and had a sister. Haha. I remember one day realizing that my Mom could still have babies if she wanted to ( I didn't know that my dad had had the ole surgery at this point) and I was like NO NO NO. New baby means less attention for me, and means that I am no longer the baby. NO. All that to say, as an only child you were probably LESS selfish than me.

    Turns out I'm selfish as an adult too because I am human. But marriage has helped me out with that one.

    Anyway, the way I have been stereotyped are as followed:

    blond = dumb
    young = dumb
    woman = dumb

    So pretty much I've been thought to be dumb a lot in my life.

    Dumb or not, at least I'm kind.

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  8. Candis- you are the farthest thing from dumb, but I understand how you've been made to feel that way thru ugly ole stereotypes.

    I believe our human nature is selfish. We constantly think of ways to better ourselves vs promoting others. And I think this is true if you have 100 siblings or zero.

    And yes, no better way to weed out selfish desires than marriage. Motherhood, maybe? I just can't speak for that one... yet.

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  9. molly, i forgot all about teddy ruxpin! oh how i loved him! sweet post, friend.

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  10. Molly, thank-you for this post. I know we have discussed this topic many times, but, it is so good to hear your heart thru these words.I think we all have to arrive at feeling comfortable in "our place". I loved you as a baby, I loved you as a child, I loved you as a teenager (and had a blast with you) and now I love you as my adult daughter. I not only love you I like you too! Love Mom

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  11. Doodle, What a wonderful blog. Just because you were born a girl, that did not keep you and me from enjoying things that a father and son would do. But I liked to do things with you that little girls liked to do also. What wonder MEMORIES! PTA, school programs, softball, our Date night where nothing would interfere with our time together. The KD times and the Father- Daughter week-end in Texas with several fathers and daughters.Doodlebug, You always made me so proud to be your Dad. Now you have a wonderful husband and I thank him for allowing me to continue to have a date night with you. Oh! Doodlebug, WHAT SWEET MEMORIES!! I love you Dad

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  12. Such a awesome, well written post! Love it all, especially about your dad wanting a girl.

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  13. I love that you labeled this post "storytelling" because that is what you do, and oh so well. It is a joy to read about what has shaped you into the fabulous woman you are today.

    Oh, and Candis, I hear you on the stereotypes. I was told last week AT work, by a woman no less, that my voice didn't count because I was inexperienced. I have been in various roles at my current office for 4 years!

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  14. This is such a good post! I love the way you write!

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  15. You don't seem like an only child. It is definitely just a stereotype, though. I do like to throw it in every now and then when Art (he's an only) and I are having a disagreement...which is totally terri, I know!

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  16. Sherri Lynn- Thank you so much!

    Carolyn- Oh no! That is pretty terri! I love your honesty though.

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  17. You are an aunt. How can you be an only child and be an aunt?! We love our Aunt Molly and Uncle J!!! :)

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  18. Kelly (The Somogy Family)- And I am so very happy to be Aunt Molly! I miss you and those sweet littles so stinkin' much!

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  19. such a great post :) family is family, and they are all great, tons of siblings or not!

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  20. I love that you're dad picked out your first Easter dress. My husband said that much to his surprise he enjoys picking out little Laurie Betty's church clothes {and he really does a great job at it}.

    My grandmother was an only child and she was such a kind, loving, and fascinating person. Because of her I tend to think pretty highly of only children.

    You are SO right. You never know WHY someone is an only child. It may be by choice or not. Either way, each family is different and it can be so hurtful to judge.

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  21. i love reading your words, dear only child. you are a gift to so many. (oh, and i did love reading your sweet mother's comment above - precious!) thank you, also, for your recent comments on our blog. you're so very kind & thoughtful.

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  22. Oh my gosh Molly... This is why the universe brought us together in the blogworld! I'm an only child too (mom & dad were 36 & 39 respectively) and so much of this was like reading the transcripts of my thoughts over the years. There really is a weird little stigma about only children and it's so frustrating with all the misconceptions about what that does to our persona and character. Sure, it would have been fun to have a sibling but I wouldn't change anything about my upbringing (and not for any selfish reasons, just because I'm grateful for the way my parents raised me).

    Seriously, the more I read your blog the more I wish we didn't live on complete opposite sides of the country - there would be much coffee sipping and magical golden glitter wand crafting (because wouldn't that be just too much fun after all these years?)

    Oh, and my dad was totally that guy who wanted a little girl too!

    (sorry this was so long, I'm annoyingly loquacious tonight)

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