Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One and Only

I belong to a family of three. My son is an only child. For the past few years, he has expressed his desire for a sibling. In his mind, having a sister or brother would be one life long play-date. Perhaps it would be. Sort of. At this point though, that is not in the cards for him. I too am an only child, growing up in a family of three. As a kid, I often wondered what it would be like on the other side, to be one of a larger family.

In the summer of 1977, the three months between seventh and eighth grade, I spent many days at the home of my friend Emmy Franklin. Emmy was one of seven kids. She had five older siblings, one younger, all of them impossibly cool. Her sisters were smart and beautiful, her brothers surfed and skateboarded. We all hung out around the Franklin’s pool listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album on repeat, the air smelling of chlorine and Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil.

I noticed with great interest, the constant teasing, the long lines for the bathroom, and the general loudness of their home. It was an exotic foreign land, filled with constant camaraderie and inside jokes. I tried to picture myself in a crowded house, vying for attention with so many other people. It seemed wonderful, it seemed scary. I was not built for that.

One day, after lunch, Emmy’s mom said that we could have ice cream after we finished our tuna sandwiches. Emmy grabbed the carton of rocky road out of the freezer, pulled off the lid, and found it was empty, save for one small folded piece of paper that read, “Ha ha ha.” It instantly occurred to me, this would never happen at my house. It was then I realized that being an only child had its benefits.

The Franklin’s was an exciting place to visit but going home to my family, where no one had borrowed the sweater I wanted to wear, and no one had used my bath towel to dry off their bike, was the right place for me. It suited me. And the quiet, I longed for the quiet. And the undivided attention from my parents was priceless. Being an only was my normal.

Bob too spends time with friends of larger families. I believe he sees it as a constant party. In time, I hope he will settle in and enjoy his normal. I think he already has, more than he even knows.


  1. This is such a beautiful post, Lisa. Off to share it on Facebook...


  2. Oh, Lisa.

    SO TRUE.

    Honestly, I grew up in a house of six, and I can't count the number of times, I said "too many. there's too many of us." There were never enough fish sticks, my brothers always scarfed up the pizza before I even got a second piece, and we could only do outings with the group split in half. No new clothes, and re used winter coats.

    I used to daydream about being an only child. That to me, would have been like winning the lottery.

  3. Bob is very lucky. He does not have an older sister to depants him in front of her boyfriend. Molly C

  4. Offer him the possibility of having all the children he cares to.

  5. I love this! My only already loves the quiet of her big room that she doesn't have to share at age 3. I love my sister and often feel guilt about my daughter's only-ness. I guess I won't feel that way when I'm paying for her college!

  6. Doesn't Teddy count as a sibling? I remember when a little boy I knew threw his arm around his little brother and his dog and yelled, "Hurry mom, take a picture of the three brothers!"

    1. Yes, I think Teddy and Max the fish should have some type of sibling points. xo

  7. I can't think of a better upbringing than the harmonious, love-filled one you and Jeff have created. Beautiful post.

  8. This killed me. I want to say so much here but I don't have the time. We are three, also. And I struggle to this day with that choice. But I love our little family and the way I get to focus on my son. Anyway, thanks for another moving post. I'm gonna go cry in the shower.

  9. As we discussed recently, M is definitely in the same stage that Bob is. I have a sibling but it's almost like I am an only child. I lived for a year with my father and stepmother alone and I liked it. A lot.

    I'm hoping Jay's only child status will convert to rock-star level soon with M but we'll see.

  10. I absolutely love this post. I'm the youngest of three, with two older brothers and I never even tried to imagine life as an only child because I was so isolated from my brothers. To them, I was a gross little girl, so I spent a good amount of time alone or with my friends.
    But it's nice to find your own normal, even though it isn't normal to everyone else.

  11. Yes to this, yes yes yes a lot of times. We're a family of four-with-an-asterisks (my guy has an older son who spends weekends with us), but our most-of-the-time unit of 3 feels just the right size for us. And so when I'm jabbed and asked "when you goin to start trying for your next?" I can only answer that the one we have is just perfect, and perfectly enough for us, and leave it there.

  12. Growing up I never knew an only but I did know quite a few two-fers. As the 2nd of 6, those two-fers looked heavenly to me. I felt so safe and welcome and loved in those homes, it made it hard to go back and face the chaos of six. Even after all these years, I'm still close to the surviving parents of those two-fer families and miss those who have passed. The stability of those small families was missing in my own and something I desperately needed.

    Bob will figure it out and find surrogate siblings along the way when he needs them, in fact, it sounds like he already has.