“Pass the bread”, my father requested. As my sister reached for the bread basket, the rest of the table held their breath, shut their eyes, winced and prayed for a clean delivery. Nope. As her arm moved in slow motion across her dinner plate, it innately collided with her glass of milk, turning it over onto the tablecloth and undoubtedly drowning someone else’s pork chops and apple sauce, causing chaos and dismay throughout our dining room. This happened almost every night for probably more than a year. We’re not absolutely sure why but we chalked it up to subconsciously looking for some sort of attention from our very busy, very stressed-out parents. When you are one of six children, you sometimes had to pull out the big guns to get noticed. Good grades, bad grades, runaway threats, expulsion, broken limbs, car accidents, awards, parts in plays, visits from the local police or small sectors of the FBI. You had to make yourself known if you were going to stand out. My sister’s was the spilt milk, mine was the visit from the small sector of the FBI on the night of my older sister’s wedding rehearsal but hey, no one’s keeping score here. Growing up in a big family was empowering and degrading at the same time. If you weren’t taking care of your shit, no one else was either so you had better learn to use the washing machine early, pour your own damn cereal and bribe your older siblings for rides from point A to point B if you ever wanted to get anywhere. It was survival of the fittest in a clan that size and while it made me who I am today, it is also one of the biggest reasons I decided that my first born would remain my one and only. Here are the reasons from my own experience that helped me shut the garage door after birthing my first and only offspring.
My mother would forget my sister and I (and occasionally a friend or two) almost every Friday after swimming class at school and we would have to go on to wait in the school Convent where the nuns would serve us up warm diet coke and brownies and continuously call my house only to receive a busy signal as our crib was teeming with phone disorder-laden teenagers. Eventually, one of us would make an emergency breakthrough on the line and tell my mother that she forgot us. How could she not realize her two youngest babies had never arrived home from school? I mean, she called me “Whoever you are” after running through everyone else’s name so maybe that explains it but in her defense, she was pregnant for 10 years straight with only quick smoke breaks in between each pregnancy. How was she ever to rid herself of “Pregnancy Brain”? Truthfully, she never did.
- My child’s life – I arrive everywhere at least five minutes early, with prepared snacks and water in case of immediate hunger and inability to make it the ten-minute drive home. She won’t have to wait in a convent ever, for many reasons but it’s really the warm, Diet Coke I’m trying to avoid here.
I was fourteen years old the first time I ever flew on an airplane. Exotic was hitting up Avalon instead of Stone Harbor, NJ during the summer months. I would beg my parents to go to Disney World and my father’s response would be, “As long as I am paying six private school tuitions, you’re probably not going to meet Mickey”.
- My child’s life – My kid is four and she’s already explored the likes of Mexico (twice), Italy (twice), Spain, Australia and bits and pieces of the U.S.A. She has an annual pass to Disneyland. If we had another kid, we’d have to rent some furniture during the summer months and call it “The Summer House”.
Nilla Wafers were a real treat. Do you remember those? Yes well, my mother would pick up a box of them every Sunday and we’d house that box in 20 minutes or less and then there would be no more “treats” for the rest of the week.
- My child’s life – We talk about whether we’ll hit CoolHaus Ice Cream or Sprinkles Cupcakes on Wednesdays after school. She’ll never have to rummage through my purse to find some Baby Aspirin or a loose Life-Saver to get that sugar high like we did when we were kids.
My mother would give us all a teaspoon (or tablespoon depending on your age and state of awakeness) of Dimetapp. Yes, you heard me, the cough medicine. She’d sit us up on the countertop and disperse the liquid sleep/cough aid to her children before bedtime. We were all ok with this since it tasted of grape and the Nilla Wafers had been gone for days.
- My child’s life – While I won’t deny the fact that I have exaggerated my child’s cough and announced to an entire international flight that she has been coughing for days while dosing her with Benadryl before a long haul, we do not drug her (no matter how tempting) so that we can get a good night’s sleep. I am not knocking my mother’s brilliance or desperation here but really? My poor, tiny liver. If I had more than one kid, I’d ditch the announcements to fellow passengers and line them up on the ticketing booth to dispense the drugs. Like mother, like daughter.
There was no way my parents could have or would have wanted to volunteer or be involved parents in school and outside activities. They were tired, they had no urge and quite frankly, I don’t blame them but you do it for your kid. By showing support for the community your child is involved in, you show your child you are invested in their success. Don’t get me started on my neglect issues, stay with me.
- My child’s life – I give way more than I should and she’ll probably roll her eyes when she spots me putting away library books, the day after I ran the Dance-a-Thon and won the fight for healthy lunches at her school next year but she’ll know I cared, she’ll know I was invested…and I will bask in the glory that I am an amazing parent, much superior to my own. If I had more than one, I’d slow down at drop off while I forced them all out of a moving car.
I couldn’t get away from the chaos. It was everywhere I turned. Loud voices, instruments, televisions, peace was few and far between and I relish in quiet. I had no idea that I loved peace and quiet so much until I was well-into adulthood. Big crowds were a part of my identity, until I learned that I suffer from Claustrophobia, of course.
- My Child’s Life – We bring her to spend time with her eleven cousins over the summer and winter breaks and it’s so great for her. It makes her feel important, like she has this huge family and over the years she’s even stopped physically pushing them away from her while screaming “NO!!” in her loudest voice, arms extended like Elsa trying to escape Arandelle after the Coronation took a bad turn, so I’m feeling pret-ty positive about her progress. If I had more than one, I’d be surrounded by the chaos that I thought I loved but was actually slowly killing me. My children would be killing me slowly. That’s something to contemplate, really.
I realize my life has been full of love and companionship. I’ve rarely ever felt alone and I wouldn’t change all of the crazy for all of the money in the world. We’ve made choices for our family that work best for us. We love to travel, live in LA and provide her with experiences I wasn’t allowed to dream of (mostly because I was in a drug-induced state of slumber). It doesn’t matter because in 20 or so years, we’ll all be reading, “How my Parents Ruined my Life by Making Me an Only Child” By: Stella Masciopinto. Stay tuned, it should be a good one.