Monday, December 05, 2005

What Would Santa Say?

small families have feelings too

Okay, guys and girls, I’m going to comment on just one more post on Kim’s blog, and then, I promise, it’s over and out. (BTW this is not a personal attack on Kim or anything, it’s just that her posts happened to bring back certain memories!) Here it is – “Coming From a Large Family”. It was, coincidentally, posted on K10’s birthday, and it really got me thinking…and thinking… and thinking.

In my home country, three children were considered a very large family; four were unheard-of; if you had five, you received a medal from the government (honest!) That had a lot to do with living conditions, of course – kinda hard to cram more than five people into a 2-3-bedroom apartment, and I don’t think they built apartments bigger than 3BR. Add to that the shortage of money, food, clothes, the fact that you had to stand in lines for hours to buy anything, and there you have it. So, of course, I am always interested to learn more about the life and logistics of large families. For instance, I learn a lot from Kim (you know... THE Kim). But back to the post in question.

What got me on the defensive was this part:

“I think being part of a large family helps children prepare for life as a Christian adult.
I'm going to go out on a limb by saying this, but I think that modern small families in which one or two children have their parents' undivided attention have contributed to a basic self-centeredness and irresponsibility that is at the root of many problems in modern society. Don't get me wrong. Not every child of a small family suffers from this "syndrome," but I do think there is a connection in society at large.
What are some of the symptoms?

- children who don't know how to share or get along with others
- children who think they *need* every new toy that their peers have
- teens who think their parents owe them a car when they turn 16
- 18 year olds who think their parents owe them a fully-paid college education
- new wives who know nothing of keeping house, because their mother had no need for their help
- new mothers who know nothing of childrearing because, again, their mother had no need for their help - or there were no younger siblings to help care for
- 28 year olds who are unwilling or unable to leave home and support themselves”

I am an only child. If I had a dollar for each time people called me selfish for that reason alone, I would be able to retire happily and send my children to Ivy League. I have to tell you, there’s nothing like being sent on a guilt trip for a decision your parents made without ever consulting you.

With that in mind, let me go through this list.

1. I was the new wife and mother who knew nothing of keeping house or childrearing. No offense to anyone, but, it isn’t rocket science. I picked it up pretty fast, and that was in Russia where hardly any housework was automated, we cooked from scratch each and every time, we had no disposable diapers, we had no washing machine, etc. (And our friggin husbands didn’t lift a finger to help us with it all!) as opposed to running a house here in America, where everything basically comes down to pushing a button. I am a better cook than my Mom, and I dare say I’m a darn good parent. I enjoy doing housework, and I don’t hold it against my Mom that she hadn’t taught me more earlier. I learned it all myself, and I learned to do it my way, not the way my Mom or anybody else did.

2. Thinking that your parents owe you a car, a college education, etc. I admit, I have met many young adults, back in college and when I started working, who thought their parents owed them this thing and that. Thankfully, my parents put a lot of work into teaching me to depend only on myself and raising me free of any sense of entitlement. I’m trying to pass this down to my children. I12 is very good about going without and giving up stuff, and he never asks for anything. Last year, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and he replied, “Do I have to get Christmas presents?” He’s also oblivious to peer pressure, for better or for worse, so, between all that, he hardly ever asks for anything. K10, on the other hand, asks for new toys, etc. a lot. We try to break him of this habit. And, of course, just because he asks for something, doesn’t mean he gets it! Now that he’s older, he is able to actually look around and see that his friends do not get new toys handed to them on a platter, either, and that each family has its own financial priorities and rules.

3. Not knowing how to share or get along with others. Honestly, doesn’t this argument remind you of another one – “homeschooled children will fail in life, because they don’t know how to socialize”? Disagree on both counts. It’s all very individual. My 12yo has Aspergers. You can throw a hundred siblings at him and he still won’t know how to get along with others (or even why he’s supposed to bother). My 10yo is Mr. Social. He has incredible people skills. He was born that way. Of course, the challenge of having to get along with a quirky (and much admired) older brother, as well as the older brother’s friends, has probably helped immensely.

4. Not wanting to leave home or support themselves – don’t know what to say, it never happened to me! I popped out of my parents’ apartment as soon as I was able to (actually wanted to go to a math boarding school at 15 – the school was tuition-free – unfortunately they didn’t admit kids of Jewish ethnicity). That said, it probably isn’t a good sign when the children cannot wait to get out of their parents’ home. I know that, in my case, it was for a reason.

Another thing I hear a lot on the ‘Net is when parents of one or two children are being called selfish. Somehow “a separate bedroom for each child” seems to come up a lot. Yes I am a selfish mother of two, and that is for a lot of very valid reasons. We actually thought about three, but things went so badly with two, we just threw in the towel. Plus our little Aspie, I12, probably wouldn’t be thrilled with the prospect. I am positive that he benefited from having K10 to interact with, but too many siblings could have probably pushed him off the deep edge! I have a scary story to prove it.

Another two people that would be pushed off the edge are my parents. I already have twice as many kids as they had ever wanted, and I had to go to war for that. When I first told my Mom that we wanted a second child, she had a fit. When I came to visit them while pregnant with K10, every one of their friends had to pull me aside and tell me about the horrible mistake I was making, and what a disservice it would be to poor I12 (two-and-a-half years old at that time). Now they are very happy to have K10 for a grandson (sometimes, in my opinion, too happy), but more additions to our family would probably do them in. They live one mile away from us, so we have to take their feelings into consideration.

There are a few other reasons that I cannot share with you, as they are too personal, and involve Mr. Goldie. But enough about him, let’s talk about me. I am a quirky person (what do you expect from a mother of a quirky kid). Among other things, I’m terrified of major changes. For several months after each one of my babies was born, I had this awful feeling that the sky is falling, the world is ending, my family will never be the same, everything was perfect and now it’s horrible, and it’s all my fault because I ruined it all by bringing another baby into the family. I figure I probably had some form of PPD; but then, this summer, I had the exact same feelings when we got our pet chinchilla. So on top of PPD, I probably have some residual Aspergers as well. I had poor Mr. Goldie freaking out both times (I kept to myself my feelings regarding the chinchilla). (The kids didn’t freak out at all. They understand. After all, they’re my blood relatives.) My reaction to my second baby has almost cost us our family. We came this close to getting divorced. Do I want to put my family through it ever again, not to mention 5-6 more times? Heck no!!!

Yes my children have each their own bedroom… guilty as charged. May I offer that I12 needs one? As for K10, he doesn’t really want one. There’s always people hanging out in his room, sleeping there, reading there, etc. His door is always open. He just loves being around people. Besides, it hasn’t always been that way. There was a time when the three of us – my both children and myself – shared a bed, and poor Mr. Goldie slept on the kitchen floor, because he couldn’t sleep with the babies crying. I12 (then three years old) begged me for a bed of his own, but, we couldn’t afford it, and not only that, it also wouldn’t have fit into our only room. They did not get their own rooms till they were eight and five years old. (It was also about that time that I started buying them new clothes instead of second-hand.) So, whatever the reasons why I have a small family, it definitely isn’t because of money, as folks on the ‘Net are always fast to assume. We have been dirt poor once, it wouldn’t kill me to be dirt poor again.

I need to end this post if I want anyone to read it. But, “Goldie, why Santa?” – you’re probably wondering. Thing is, yesterday I heard a sermon that just about made me fall out of my seat.

Saint Nicholas (yes, THE Santa Claus) was AN ONLY CHILD.

Now go ahead and call all only children selfish.


The Goldie has spoken at 6:02 PM

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