The Perfect Child
My parents had me in their mid-twenties. They were young and fun, essentially we grew up together. Having just one child was a choice for them. They had discussed more kids early on, but decided I was perfect (just kidding, kind of), so it was just going to be me. They had both wanted a little redheaded girl and that is what they got, along with everything that a redheaded girl entails. I have always been independent, a little spicy, and very busy; so in hindsight, I might have been all they could handle.
Size Doesn’t Matter
My parents did not come from large families so the need to have a large family themselves wasn’t necessarily something that was important to them. My mom has one sibling, and they were close as kids, but they didn’t remain close as they got older. My dad has 3 half brothers, one 9 years apart and the other 18 years apart; the other he did not meet until he was nearly an adult. My grandparents’ families weren’t very large either, aside from my mom’s dad, who has several siblings, but they lived in different states.
Not only am I an only child, but I was also the only grandchild on both sides for 13 years. I had second cousins around my age that I would visit every year, but none that lived close to me. My parents and my grandparents gave me an amazing childhood. My grandparents took me on lots of vacations; they took me to Vegas for the first time and Spain for my 21st birthday. Small as it may be, my family was always my biggest supporters. They cheered me on each step I took. They taught me that if I wanted to continue to do all these things as an adult, I had to work hard for them. They instilled a strong work ethic and belief that I could do anything I wanted to do.
As my first cousins came along, it was fun to be the big cousin. My baby cousin and I have grown up to become best friends. My younger cousins (my dad’s youngest brother’s children) are the same age as my kids, so that has been fun for all of us to have them close in age.
There have been times that I envied my friends with huge families and their big family dinners and vacations. But while it looks like so much fun, I wouldn’t trade my small family for anything.
Only the Lonely
I get asked these two questions all the time: “Weren’t you lonely as a kid?” or “Who did you play with?” These questions are fair; my kids are about 3 years apart and they are best friends. They entertained each other when they were little, they played well, and of course, they had little fights and wore my nerves thin. I grew up living in apartments for most of my young childhood, so there was always someone to play with. The neighbor kids and I grew up in the bliss of the ’80s and early ’90s. We rode bikes until dark, had sleepovers, and swam in the pool at the apartments, so my days were filled. My dad was so fun; I vividly remember him playing Barbies with me, taking me on bike rides and hikes, and teaching me to ski and windsurf. When we went on family vacations, my parents would oftentimes let me bring a friend. We also always had a dog, which is truly the best playmate and companion a kid can have.
Sure, there were times when I didn’t have a friend to play with or my parents were busy, but it taught me to entertain myself. I am and always have been a reader, I learned to do crafts, took dance classes, mastered Nintendo, and vegged and watched TV. My grandma had a rule that I wasn’t allowed to say the “B” word, because only boring people get bored.
The Hard Part
As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that the hardest part of being an only child is just beginning. My people are getting older and as they start to pass on, I do worry about being the last one of my little extended family one day. Of course, I have my husband and my kids, but losing parents and grandparents is scary. I lost my dad to melanoma in 2014, so our trio is now a duo.
In the past 5 years, I have lost a grandpa on one side and a grandma on the other. As difficult as the losses are, I am so thankful for pictures and memories that last a lifetime. I am thankful that I knew my great grandparents and my kids knew their great grandparents. Our family may be small, but the love is huge and as an only child, I never felt like I was short on that.