Just…Love Each Other…K?
Mom often asked me growing up if I regretted not having siblings. I never doubted that she loved me, but she told me often about wanting four kids, two of each sex. It didn’t work out that way for her. I always told her I was fine being an only. It was the truth.
I speak often of my brother, who I love very much, but he’s actually my half brother on dad’s side. Mom and dad divorced when I was two, and dad remarried (that one didn’t work out either). So he had two boys by different wives, and we are both first borns, something only half brothers can be. But I chafe at the term half brother. I think of him as simply my brother, who I met once briefly when we were both teenagers, and reconnected with years later as adults. We get along very well, sympatico I would say even, as only two first borns can.
But deep in my core I know that I am temperamentally an only. There are a great many myths about us…that we are self centered and selfish and vain…that we don’t socialize very well…all that. Some of it is false, some of it true but not in the way people think. We’re not so much self centered as self motivated, because there was no sibling competition to deal with in the home. But vanity is something a parent either nurtures or arrests in a child. Having 100 percent of your parent’s attention is a double edged sword, especially in a Baptist household. I got unconditional love, and whenever something bad happened mom always knew who did it because there were no other suspects. We learn to socialize just a tad differently: I had to make friends outside the home just like anyone else. But I had a room of my own all my life. That only child indifference to the herd is often misinterpreted as misanthropy. We love company, but don’t instantly wilt without it. We onlies are almost preternaturally good at keeping ourselves company.
I’m telling you this by way of saying that the mechanizations of big families with lots of kids often mystify me. It’s a life I never had and I’ll be forever on the outside looking in at these families. I know this. And I know when there is trouble among them I need to keep out of it, even when, or especially when, a friend is involved. At the moment the family of a friend of mine is going through a rough patch. A parent is in very dire health, and the kids all love the parent, just not each other.
I know some of the specifics of the trouble between them, and I can’t blame some of them for feeling the way they do about the others. But I wish they could just love each other. And I guess they can’t.
I’m in my 60s now, and I’ve seen many different kinds of families, some that are amazingly tight and others like radioactive material that just doesn’t want to stay together. I understand it and I don’t. Life is short, the universe doesn’t care, we are all we have to care for each other. But humans aren’t very good at that in the aggregate. We evolved on the east African plains and we are a kind of pack/tribe animal deep down inside. But the rational mind needs it’s privacy to function too. We need space to think, and to calm down so we can think. Mom often asked me if I regretted not having siblings and I always said I was fine with being an only. Maybe that was stereotypically selfish of me. But I would absolutely have that life again. A room of your own isn’t only peace and quiet and sanity whenever you need it, I think it allows you to learn how to calm down and let go of it when people are making you angry.