Monday, January 26, 2015

What parents of onlies know

Charlie and I are both middle kids. Classic cases of left-out, overlooked, constantly compromising, and all that other middle kid BS.  Maybe it was all we knew, but we expected to have multiple kids in our household.

For any number of reasons, though, we seem destined to be a threesome. Which is more than fine. We’re so blessed with HB. She’s practically perfect in every way.

Around Halloween we took her to the ballet to see Dracula and I learned a few things I think maybe parents of more-than-one don’t know.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Sitting between your parents is a BIG deal.

Hollie insisted on being between us at the ballet. When we have family movie night at home, she tugs Charlie over to my side of the couch to squeeze herself in the middle. Sunday mornings she climbs up in the bed and flops Guh-Gus, her elephant pillow, right smack between us and burrows in with him.

I don’t remember ever sitting between my parents. I always had sisters around. I remember sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with my sisters and my parents like bookends. I remember sitting in a line, two people away from mom and three people away from dad. I remember sitting next to dad or next to mom. But I don’t remember being in the middle.

That was the shotgun position. My sisters always called it first. But Hollie wraps her arms around ours and holds us to her like sentries.

Walking into a room by yourself is hard.

Every time I drop Hollie off at child watch at the YMCA, a birthday party, cheer class, ballet, football practice, she’s going into that situation alone. She may know some kids, but it’s just her. And she squares her shoulders and does it.

It’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.

The first time she trudged across the yard to catch the carpool with our neighbors, I thought I saw her grow three inches taller. She’s stronger and braver because she has to be.

I was lucky to have my sister Kristen close enough in age to me that we often did the same stuff. Not Hollie, she’s on her own. And she’s unafraid to meet new people, try new things, and to be alone, if that’s what ends up happening.

Making decisions for yourself is a skill only learned by doing.

So many of the choices made in my childhood were influenced by my sisters. From what to play to what to wear to whether we did tap or ballet at the George Coomber School of Dance.
Bicycle Rickshaw Family Selfie (KDW 2014)

I’m not blaming them. I’m very satisfied with the decisions that made me who I am. But I remember picking a pair of leather and denim shoes that I thought were funky and cool or signing up to take Naval Junior ROTC in high school and having that choice mocked.

Sisters can be cruel to one another, it’s where mean girls originate. I doubted myself because of their influence upon me.

Hollie won’t have that. She has friends whose choices, suggestions, and judgments will all eventually influence her. In our house, though, she gets to be herself without pause or concern for the ridicule of siblings. It’s a unique kind of freedom that I hope will build her confidence.

Family time requires our participation.

We all return to a place of comfort to recharge our batteries. Hollie’s place of comfort is with us. I’m sure that’s true of not-onlies, too, but with not-onlies their siblings can substitute for parents. With Hollie, it’s got to be us.

An only kid spends a lot of time on her own. When she can get the safety and security of being with mom and dad, or even just one of them, it’s a chance to recharge.

What we love about HB’s onliness is that we can focus on her. And we do. Sometimes.

Other times, she moves in her own single orbit. We all hover around our family nucleus like independent particles in the same atom.We have struck a balance (for now) between being three people and being one family. 

I’m extremely proud of how well we operate as a team, how much we enjoy being together, and how easily we give each other space. It's something I'm sure I knew as one-of-three and kept with me as one-of-five. I didn't invent this family bond. I inherited it.

How did your sibling structure affect your family now?


  1. I was a middle child, too. An older sister, a younger sister, and my brother who likes to claim middle-child. I say he was the only boy, so he doesn't really know what it's like to truly be in the middle. I remember that I never got to sit with Mom or my older sister because my younger sister insisted on it. I got stuck with Dad or my brother. I minded. A lot! I raised 2 girls as a single parent and worked out a compromise where they each got the same amount of me. I never thought about it before, but I guess this came from my own disappointments.

    1. Hi, Barbara! Thanks for stopping by Clemson Road. So much of what I do for Hollie is a result of my own disappointments. She gets a red velvet Christmas dress (the kind with the Santa-like fur trim) every year. Simply because I always wanted on. This strategy is SO gonna backfire on me one day!


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