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.