Saturday, July 13, 2013

Us onlies

No, I'm not misspelling stuff.  Puh-lease.  I AM the grammar police.  No, I'm thinking about those of us who are only children.  When I tell people I'm an only child, I get the knowing look and the eye roll, despite the fact I'm 45 and no longer a child in any respect.  Often people feel the need to make the "oh, you must have gotten EVERYTHING" comment out loud, and some have the class not to say it, but their faces say it loud and clear.  Maybe that's true of some only children.  I don't know those people.  When I, in the wake of the comment, shake my head and smile, I don't bother to go into why I don't fit that bill at ALL, but I am here.

But after my post yesterday, I've been thinking about a comment a friend, who is also an only child made.  She said being an only "ain't for the faint or weary." In a lot of ways that's true, but it's especially true for the subset of only children that she and I both fall into, only children of single parents, in our case, moms.  See, we're a different breed. Not because our moms wanted to, but out of necessity, we became peers way too soon.  We skipped over most of the indignant tantrums and whiny demands, moving straight to the years most people make peace with their parents.  There WERE some tantrums and demands, but they were early on, and they were cut off quick, because there was literally no time for nonsense.  See, our little subset became partners in The Effort.  That effort of keeping those elusive, slippery, never long enough ends meeting.  We onlies knew when the light bill wasn't paid, because we needed winter coats, and there wasn't money for both.  We saw our moms worrying over the bills piling up on the kitchen table.  We maybe scraped through Trigonometry (okay, I barely scraped through), but by God we could calculate how much we had in the grocery cart and get within $1 of the total in our heads.  We knew better than to ask for anything--even if it was for school--on the 25th because there was only $10 left until payday on the 30th. We got jobs at 12 and used it to pay for things we couldn't ask our parents for, because we knew something else wouldn't get paid.  We studied harder than anyone we knew, because the certainty of education was pushed into our heads, right along with the certainty we'd need scholarships to get it.

All that had a really odd effect on us.  Of the onlies I know of single moms, we're all more than a little heavy on the control freak thing.  Things need to be a certain way in our world.  We crave stability and security for ourselves and those we love. We're the ones breaking our legs to get to every kids' performance and riddled with more than average guilt if we can't. We're the ones trying over and over again to make things perfect.  Perfect family meals, perfect holidays, perfect outfits and parties for our kids, perfect memories, not because we're trying to impress those adults around us.  We're doing it because we're trying to give our kids everything we didn't have.  We want them to never hear the words "we just can't afford it" when talking about their dreams waiting for fulfillment.  We want them to travel a path we never even dreamed of.

So in our world of judgments made in a snap moment, the only child may not be what he or she seems.  Some may be heavy on the only and short on the childhood.  My friend was right, it's not an existence for the faint or weary.

No comments:

Post a Comment