Only The Lonely, As In Child

Something About Nothing in The Albert Lea Tribune the week of April 17, 2017

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Whoopie! There is an Only Child Day, and I happen to be an only child! We have a day to celebrate so we don’t have to feel bad anymore when all those people post their pictures on Siblings Day. But what do we do with an only child day?

I think there are many misconceptions about only children. One of the ideas is that only children are spoiled. I was spoiled when I was an only child, but I think it had more to do with the fact that I was born to parents who were in their 40s who knew I would be the only child they ever had. Also, they lost twins earlier in their marriage. Contributing to the spoiling was perhaps the fact I was left with family or alone a lot because my parents were busy working.

There were perks of being an only child. I had a lot of toys. I didn’t have to vie with siblings for attention. In my case, I lived my early years in a household with a grandmother and an uncle who also — especially my uncle — did many special things for me.

He made me my own ice skating rink in the family garden. I had a swing and a homemade teeter-totter and a merry-go-round. My uncle also built me a winter slide from the top of the hay rack, which let me slide down the track across the entire pasture. If I think about that now, I can’t imagine anyone would let their child slide on a homemade contraption like that for safety’s sake today. It’s amazing I survived and never once did the sled leave the track.

I have memories of helping load hay and learning how to drive a small tractor. I spent a great deal of time with my uncle when my parents were working.

As a teenager, I spent most of my time either alone or with my friends. My parents were busy taking care of my grandparents and uncles and running their shoe store. Those who envied my spoiled life or those adults that blamed my parents because I was spoiled, didn’t see the other side of the picture.

I had a wonderful life as I grew up, but being an only child also has its ups and downs.

I spent much of my time with adults, so I learned to talk to other adults, which helped when I became an adult, or in volunteer activities when I was a teenager. I learned to handle death, as it was never hidden from me when a family member died, and I was included in plans. I got to travel with my parents, although at the time I didn’t appreciate all I got to see because I didn’t have other kids to mingle with on our journeys, unless we were visiting relatives. And, I didn’t have to fight with my siblings for toys, bedrooms, time with parents, television shows and whatever it is siblings fight about. I have imagination because I spent so much time playing by myself.

I still feel the downside to being an only child. It can be a lonely life. I spent so much time alone that as an adult in my younger years I did not like being alone. I wish I could experience the feelings others have for their sibling being love or hate or ambivalence. When it came time to making decisions for my mom, I was alone in the decision-making process.

I miss having a brother and sister to share memories with — good times and bad. Most of my mother’s and father’s close family are gone. I miss family get togethers at holidays with other relatives. And I must admit I don’t understand when brothers and sisters do not keep their connection going throughout their life.

My friends had to become my brothers and sisters. I don’t know how I would feel about a brother or sister family member, but I would imagine it is the way I feel about some of my friends. However, there still is a difference as friends have their own siblings and families they spend holidays with.

My being an only child influenced how many children I had. I did not want to have only one child because I felt it was a lonely life after your parents are gone. I am fortunate to have three children and five grandchildren. I still have family.

Can you miss what you never had? I do. Or maybe it is the idea of what could have been and what I see with others who are blessed with siblings. Sibling love is not always rosy, but usually that close family member has your back when the chips are down. In spite of the fights and feuds, the love is there.

I can’t quite figure out how to celebrate Only Child Day. Buy myself a gift? Buy a lottery ticket? Do something I did as a child by myself?

I think I want to celebrate next year and find another only child to share the day with. It’s more fun when there is two instead of one.