I was driving home with my mom after Thanksgiving when I started thinking about how I fit into my family as an only child. This Thanksgiving was the first time I became very aware that I am an only child in a very large family of people who all have siblings. There was a moment that afternoon when half the people were in the living room watching the Minnesota Vikings lose (again) while the other half were in the kitchen organizing the copious amount of food. I was standing by the table, which was in the middle of these two areas of the house, when I noticed that everyone was engrossed in the TV or a conversation. I looked at the people talking in the kitchen and tried to figure out whose conversation I was going to force myself into.
While sitting in the passenger seat while my mom drove, I thought about how having a sibling is like having a safety net. If you are in a room full of people you haven’t seen since last Thanksgiving, you don’t always know what to talk about. So I find during these times how nice it would be to have someone, like a sibling, that you can always talk to when the small talk gets smaller. While I wouldn’t say that I feel excluded from conversations, I do tend to try really hard to be included because I don’t have that automatic person to talk to.
But now I’ve realized how much being an only child doesn’t really matter when you have an amazing family like I do.
I am the youngest of 18 grandchildren. I am 24 and I think my oldest first-cousin is 55, so you can imagine how interesting the dynamic is between me and my cousins who are a whole “me” older. But recently, I got together with two of my cousins for dinner. When I spend time with these two people, it is usually surrounded by 10-15 other people, so I wasn’t totally sure how it would be just the three of us. Needless to say, it went well. We spent two hours talking about their children, books, my job, traveling, and everything in between. After saying goodbye to them, I had another, more positive thought, on my relationship with my family.
When it comes to having siblings, maybe it isn’t about being blood-related and doing whatever siblings do. Maybe family is more about having sibling-like experiences with the people that you love. I thought about when I was growing up and how each of my cousins played a role in being a sibling to me. One took me to see the Harry Potter movies, one taught me how to skateboard, some let me play house with them and their older friends, some tickled and teased me until I cried of laughter, and all of them treated me like their little sister. So in the end, I am the luckiest person out there because I have 17 siblings. And even more if you count their husbands and wives that have also taken me under their wing. During Thanksgiving, I may have felt down about not having that one main person I could converse with, but now that I think more about it, I actually had an infinite amount of people that would have welcomed me into their conversation.
So this holiday season, I thank my amazing family for making me feel included when it would be really easy for them not to. I have gained a greater appreciation for the people in my life for shaping me into the person I am based on how they have treated me. Besides, I get the best of both worlds as an only child. I get the love from my cousins as if they were my siblings and the greatness of always having my own bedroom.
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