Monday, February 18, 2013

On Family Size

There was a very poignant essay in Motherlode by Beth Apone Salamon last Saturday written from her perspective as an only child contemplating what being a "singleton" meant for her. I was one of five children, but in my own way was "an only" as well- an only girl to four older brothers. So, I knew a kind of distinct loneliness in the midst of my male siblings and I remember begging my mother to have another child. I was certain it would be a girl and the sister I craved. My mother was not at all inclined to have another baby, which I didn't particularly understand. There were so many of us- why couldn't she just have one more? And when I asked for a dog my father quickly chimed in "that 5 kids were animals enough." So, while I was part of a boisterous tribe where many things were shared and adventures occurred daily, I did not have the cohort of my dreams.

When I became a parent at 40, I knew that if at all possible I was determined to have more than one child. My upbringing had it's share of nuttiness but the excitement of being part of a clan as we were, was very meaningful to me. And when my mother died unexpectedly, and all five of us pooled our concern and resources to tend to my father, I saw the strength contained in numbers.

I myself could not fathom having five children. After three, I hit a metaphysical wall. I saw the cost to their dad and myself of bringing them to adulthood, the necessities that nurture entails, the expense of college and I drew that chapter to a close. But I am grateful for the children we have despite the many fears and frustrations of parenthood in our modern times. Often, in the peak of a sibling incident, one will announce, "Why couldn't I be an only child?" Why did you have to have him (her)?" Yet I also know in their heart of hearts that there is a kind of companionship they offer to one another that is priceless in its own way. So I appreciate the three complicated souls that are my progeny. Most of the time, at least.

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