During my journalism career I once reported on a family of 16. Not a family of 16 frogs - a family of 16 PEOPLE. This wasn't a fun-house situation. THESE WERE REAL PEOPLE. I touched them each to verify, which admittedly was a strange way to start the interview. They were a rural, farming family growing up in the 1950s and during that era it was not unheard of to have large families and a dozen or so brothers and sisters in order to acquire labor to care for the fields and livestock. Apparently while some people hired hands, others made them.
Having 15 brothers and sisters is unfathomable to me. I'm one of one.
Clearly there weren't high expectations for me. This is a good thing, mostly because we never lived on a farm. So if I had to tend to the hogs, it would've been quite an interesting neighborhood. And I'm quite confident 15 others under our roof would've played itself out in a WWE Royal Rumble format and the others would be eliminated by some kind of steel cage match.
Often I wish I would've been able to form words at my birth. I think it would've been powerful if I summoned up all my strength and instead of crying, clearly declared:
"THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!"
Followed by clipping my own umbilical cord and giving a nurse a smack on the rear.
At first I wore this "only child" thing as some kind of badge of honor. Though I never did like the "only" moniker. When I discovered a thesaurus, I preferred to be referenced to as the "preferred" child. Also acceptable: "fashionable" and "classy" child. However, early on I thought being an only child somehow made me unique. Then some of my elementary classmates started questioning why I was an only child. I never had an answer. That's the thing about being an only child; there are really only two options.
Option A: You were such a terror that your parents stopped at one because any more and their collective heads would explode.
Option B: You were so perfect your parents concluded the children following you would be immediate disappointments and could never live up to your high standards.
I subscribe to Option B while my parents' opinion is of no importance. But it makes sense. I'm 1 of 1, which according to math = 100%. 100% = perfect. If you don't understand this, it's okay. Usually only us classy children understand math. And they say that only children are self-absorbed - my George Clooney-esque reflection and I agree it's far better than being someone-else-absorbed. You're issued restraining orders for that.
I was adamant about my only-ness and remember as a child dreaming that my mother was about to give me a sibling but as he or she was arriving I was shoving them back to whence they came.
"Nope, we're good here, thank you," I recall saying to dream second baby.
Sure, there were times I wished I had a sibling; like when the need arose to punch something for completely no reason. Or when I was playing baseball, which consisted of throwing a ball up in the air and hitting it with a bat. It's pretty humbling when you strike yourself out.
Later on, girls would wonder if I had a brother, presumably a more attractive one with a better personality.
"I'm sorry, " I used to say. "This is as good as it gets. My mother isn't taking requests either."
I wasn't sure how things worked, but I was pretty certain it wasn't like grabbing a number at a deli counter.
There were drawbacks, of course. For instance, anytime anything was broken it was immediately my fault. We didn't even have a legitimate pet I could deflect blame upon. For some reason blaming the goldfish for the broken dishes never worked, despite his nefarious disposition.
"You should've seen him! He held his breath, flopped over to the cabinets, pushed the dishes onto the floor using his stupid fish face and flopped back into his tank and smiled! Look at him! That's the look of a guilty fish if I've ever seen one! Look! Why aren't you looking?"
Don't get me wrong; being an only child did have its advantages. For instance, when taking lengthy car rides I had the entire back seat to myself where I could lay comfortably ? until my dad stopped suddenly and I was bent in half and wedged in between my parents. But with a shifter lodged into your uncomfortable places I can attest that you're not going anywhere anymore. Plus, if I would've been forced to have a brother or sister we would have been strapped upright and I wouldn't have had the opportunity to experience a concussion or the fine fragrance of the mini-van floor mats.
On Christmas, there was no sharing presents; however this was one time I would've made an exception as part of a lame present exchange program.
Now with a baby, when the TV accidentally finds itself on a golf or a football game I can claim our daughter got a hold of the remote. Not that this ever works either.
But there's always the fish.