I never had the family I wanted. That’s the selfish, childish and ridiculous truth. It’s the truth that I am most ashamed about, but is also the most concrete. A lot of people make the same joke/quip about families and friends, something along the lines of choosing friends and being stuck with the family, but in this case, my longing is completely my choice. I think.
I’m an only child. I really hope you aren’t making the “wha!?” face that I seem to get whenever I tell people that. I read recently that “single child families” were on the rise, so hopefully there will be a generation of kids who don’t have to deal with that face. But, I’m not lucky enough to belong to that group, my generation is chock full of siblings. Which may be why I always wanted one so damn badly.
A lot of people tell me that I’m lucky to be an only child. I didn’t have to share my toys, all the allocated resources for children belonged to me and there was never a shortage of attention. This is true, but the loneliness, the quiet, the blame and the attention were all mine as well. It’s really hard to explain to people with siblings about the downsides of being an only child. I imagine it might be hard to explain to me about some of the troubles of siblings, I guess it’s just a case of that legendary greener grass.
The loneliness is the,biggest one. See, my parents both worked. We weren’t rich by any means. But we weren’t poor either, due to the dual contributions from my mom and dad. This meant I had a lot of time to myself. Even as a young child. I had my action figures, and video games to keep me busy but those games often had two player options and I had enough toys to fill at least ten hands.
I always had a lot of friends. In fact, I generally made it a point to make as many as I could. I wonder now, if I did this as a way to fill the void. To trick myself into thinking that I wasn’t an only child, it’s just my brothers and sisters were given to other parents, for economic reasons or something like that. I have to admit, it was nice. I didn’t have to make all the sound effects for the tiny wars my plastic soldiers were waging and I was able to hone my skills in Street Fighter on a human opponent. But, they all eventually went home or I was sent away to my abode. Then I was once again growing up with shadows.
As I grew older the desire for siblings changed to a different sort of want. In a way I suppose my longing grew. I no longer just wanted a brother or sister, I wanted the BIG family. I wanted that family that you’d see in Christmas movies. Just scores of cousins and uncles and aunts all gathering in “big momma’s” kitchen. There were little inside jokes, hidden resentments, tender moments and singing, fucking A there was singing. I never had that.
Don’t get me wrong, in terms of extended family, mine is not small. Yet, I never felt like we were very close. Maybe it’s because we lacked a certain “older generation” component. See, all my grandparents passed before I was born. The closest I had was my great-aunt and great-uncle. To be fair, I do remember spending a lot of time in their apartment as a child. I’d play with some cousins while the older people conversed, read the newspaper, argued over the crossword puzzle and whatever else grown-ups do in living rooms. It just felt like it was passing through. Like we were there fulfilling an obligation rather than celebrating a bond.
Okay, here’s the caveat. When I talk about my extended family, I’m talking about my father’s side. I to this day, still don’t know many people from my mom’s side. Also, I only spent 9 years or so living in close proximity to a lot of my extended family. A job moved my parents and I away, so I admit that my cousins’ experiences are probably much different than mine. Understand that those observations are through the filter of a 20-something writer trying to remember an eight-year old’s perception.
The idea of family has been on my mind alot lately. Most likely because I’m getting to that age when people generally start families. Even though, if all goes to plan, I won’t be having children for a while, I can’t fight the thoughts of them. I think about if I’ll have more than one and if I do how I can’t possibly help them when it comes to dealing with a sibling. I have no experience. I worry that they might miss out on something because they won’t have any aunts or uncles from my side. I’m scared that they’ll never have those “movie Christmases” and end up writing a blog about it when they’re my age.
I suppose all this worrying stems from my growing sentimentality. Just the other day I found myself tearing up a little while listening to a song that I clearly remember playing multiple times in a row as a child, just because it made my mom cry, which I thought was funny. I’m contemplating the idea of legacy and roots a lot, not in an academic way either. I want my children (if they ever exist) to want their family. It terrifies me that they won’t.
Earlier I said that I never had the family I wanted and this was my choice. It’s true that I had no control over siblings or location or untimely deaths, but I had control over my perspective. I realize that there are people out there who had absolutely horrific experiences with their family and still do. I realize that there are people out there who are in the same situation as I am but feel no longing. I realize that I am, in a certain way, choosing to be discontent with the way things are. Maybe a few more rings in my trunk will change that or at least give me the map that leads to a feeling of completeness. I really hope so.
Don’t get me wrong though, I do love my family. People say that you’re forced to love your family. That’s a damn lie. But for me, I choose to love them. Even if it’s not everything I always wanted.