Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trying Not to Be the Only One Offended

We all say offensive things.

I mean, I know I am a walking example.

When my movie buddy Angie wanted us to go to the (now defunct) $1 movie theater, I said, “Isn’t that in a sleazy part of town? I don’t really want to be there after dark.”

Then, she said, “Hey, I live down the street from that theater.”


Thankfully, she forgave me. Although, she still enjoys teasing me about my faux pas. Good friends are allowed to needle you about those things.

And when I try to think about all the times I’ve said something innocently and put my foot in my mouth, I have to give everyone else a wide berth before being offended.

I think sometimes it’s easy to say or do something offensive, simply out of ignorance. Now that doesn’t make it totally excusable, but I always hope someone will give me the benefit of the doubt and perhaps EXPLAIN why what I said or did may have been perceived as offensive.
As you might have guessed, I’m tippy-toeing my way to explaining why I took offense at something the other day. It, too, was said totally innocently and matter-of-factly.

In fact, it was the matter-of-fact tone that actually sent my blood to boiling - as though this particular sentiment was widely held by the vast majority of people.

I was asking someone about their second child, and they said, “Well, of course we wanted to have another one. We didn’t want *Jonah to be an only child or anything like that.”

Well, color me offended.

I know I’ve pulled out this old soapbox before, but let me just say that I was/am/always will be HAPPY to be an only child. I did not feel deprived, and if you follow this blog at all, you know my childhood was quite idyllic.

There is this widely held, blatantly false, assumption that ALL only children are spoiled, lonely, selfish, socially maladjusted miscreants.

I’m not saying that SOME of us aren’t. I’m saying not ALL of us are. You are NOT intentionally doing your child a disservice IN ANY WAY if he/she is an only child.

I’ve spoken to a wide variety of only children. There are some who resent their sibling-less childhoods. And yes, there are the lonely kids out there, too. But the overwhelming response I get from my “only” compatriots is that they were happy kids and feel quite blessed.

I mean, how would people like it if I pointed out that I’ve met more than one “mess” of a family due to sibling rivalry?

My husband has advocated strongly for Sam to be an only child because – while he, of course, loves his four siblings - he grew up withered in the shadows of their popularity and needs and feels the poorer off for it. He looks at my childhood and sees the ocean of possibilities I was offered, and he wants those same things for Sam.

I’m not saying that everyone should have/be an only child. I’m just hoping to revise the notion that being/having an only child is a FATE WORSE THAN DEATH.

Because, I can gratefully, happily, assure you it is not.

It can be a blissful, fulfilling, and rewarding experience, and it’s time it was recognized as such.

I’ve said this before, but my mother was one of 12 children. I can’t imagine not having a single one of my aunts or uncles, and the mirthful myriad of cousins who share my sphere. My closest cousins, the Boehm’s, number four, and I wouldn’t give one of them away for the world.

So, I’m not bad-mouthing a family’s decision to have multiple children. Of course not. Nor am I saying that I KNOW for sure Sam will BE an only child.

I’m just still stubbornly trying to de-bunk a stupid myth that has annoyed me since childhood.

I’m loud. I’m proud. And I’m (most joyfully) ONE.


Heidi said...

Thank goodness. What would we do with more than one of you? Some people! ha ha
I was an only child for 10 years, so by the time you get to that point, you might as well be one. My brother, being 10 years younger than me practically grew up as an only child also.

October said...

Sounds so much like the situations many homeschoolers face....I see the parallels in commentary. Generalizations can be dangerous.

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

So true, Tob. SO TRUE.
Ann-Marie, I definitely see where you are coming from.

Perhaps the comments like that are made merely as a reflection of that person's experience, and not always because of "the myth."

I would say "of course I want my children to always be homeschooled," simply because I enjoyed being homeschooled myself and I love to teach my children... so it has more to do with my own experiences than with those who are not homeschooled.

Quite honestly, when we had Isabelle, I told my husband that we would be having more children (he agreed wholeheartedly.) We both LOVED having our siblings. Just as you can't imagine your wonderful childhood being more wonderful WITH siblings, I can't imagine mine being better without them. I adore my sisters; they are my best friends. So the comment merely reflects the love of my own childhood, not a myth of only-children being maladjusted. ;-)

Does that help at all? Maybe the comment was made innocently from the same motive to recapture or reflect her own family life.

Heidi said...

Maybe the person who made the comment was an only child herself/himself and hated it.