Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thankful to be an only child

"Oh, you don't seem like an only child at all!" All my life, people have been saying this to me as though it were a compliment. From this backward praise, I have inferred that only children have a reputation for being spoiled or, as my grandmother would say, "rurnt."

However, being an only child shaped me in undeniable ways; it was not something I had to overcome or defy by some special act of virtue.

Today, therefore, I am giving thanks for growing up as an only child.

I'm their favorite. 

Before I proceed, let me say that I do not mean to suggest that being an only child is superior to having multiple children. My parents had their reasons for stopping after me; perhaps I will invite them to share those reasons here one day. Indeed, I'm not sure how many children I would like to have or adopt one day. I just know that I am thankful for being an only child in the same way I am thankful for having blue eyes, or for having a surname that begins with "B." This is the life God gave me, and I rejoice in it.

I am thankful to be an only child because

.....my mother could (and can) hug me tightly and say, "You're my favorite" without feeling any guilt

.....I was able to accompany my parents nearly everywhere: mission trips, collegiate conferences, late-night Bible studies, and more. I can only remember having a babysitter once or twice. Because I was single and well-behaved, I rarely had to be left behind. This also meant that my mother could spend more time ministering to college students. I firmly believe that God called her to be a minister above and beyond calling her to be my mother, but she has often said that with more children she probably would not have been able to be so involved in the lives of college students.

....I learned to seek kinship and concord beyond my biological family. Alone, the nuclear Bear family could not satisfy my abundant desire for playmates and protectors, and so I turned to others to be my aunts, uncles, elder brothers, little sisters, and more. Sometimes I wished for brothers and sisters, but most of my friends who had siblings seemed to spend most of their time fighting. I decided as a child that I would much rather spend time with people who loved one another, whether they were linked by blood or not.

....I have always loved solitude and silence.  I always had at least one or two close school friends, but I spent an extraordinary amount of my first eighteen years alone, or in the company of people much older than I was. I didn't really start hanging out with people my own age until college. While this solitude may have enhanced my native shyness, it also allowed me to become quite content in my own company. I filled my solitary hours with reading, walking, and writing--habits that continue to serve me well.

....in that solitude, I grew brave. Only recently have I begun to think of myself as brave, but much of the courage I have comes from the self-sufficiency I developed as an only child. Especially as a teenager, I really and truly did not care what other people thought about my faith, my clothes, my habits, or my speech. In ninth or tenth grade, I made myself a bag that said, "Wherever the world is headed, head the other way." While this could lead to being a little too contrarian or self-satisfied, for the most part my "onlyness" allowed me to make choices based on principle, rather than peer pressure.

With the exception of being the "favorite," none of these things are exclusive to only children. Many men and women with siblings love solitude, cultivate kinships, and grow brave. However, in my own life, these blessings were undoubtedly the products of being the only child in the house.

Were you an only child? If so, what did you enjoy about that life? If you have siblings, in what ways are you thankful for them?

1 comment:

  1. You are a precious jewel my dear! Praise god for mama and papa bear...and for you.