Monday, November 14, 2011

An only

In my lifetime I have seen the disappearance of the large family in the socio-economic landscape of North America.  We all know of them.  The families with 4 - 10+ children.  An old neighbour of mine, 10 years my senior, is the eldest of 14 children.  Both my parents came from small Irish 1940s-50s families...four children in dad's, six in mum's.  The largest families I know today have four children and they are anomalies.  Most families only have one or two children...sometimes three (gender 'triplets', as often as not).

In most modern North American families the parents decide when or if there will be other children.  The miracle of birth control has allowed this decision making to be easily enforced and the availability of safe access to abortion makes any errors in judgment or failures of birth control remedied effectively (if desired).

However in some families there are choices made, either by nature or nurture, that disrupt this parental decision making pattern.  I was raised in such a family and it is only quite recently that I have accepted this.  I had one sibling, a sister, for nearly forty years and then, she disowned us.

Seeing the starkness of that last paragraph brings a lump to my throat.  You know that saying, "You can choose your friends but not your family."  Well, my sister wised up to this about five years ago and got the hell out of her own personal Dodge which included the entirety of her blood relations - and all connections to Canada.  So although she did not choose her family, she claimed personal freedom by firing the lot of us and moving overseas.

I played some part in this and tried to own the whole thing, for many years. I only recently realized that as usual, I was overcompensating.  Trying to take blame on where blame was not due.  In fact, there is no blame to be had anywhere in all of this.  It is comforting to finally realize this.  In my small 1970s immigrant irish catholic family we were victims.  Each and every one of us. Victims mostly to a society that has changed with an alarming and ferocious speed since the dawn of the industrial era.

I admit to being overwhelmed by sadness at times about this loss.  I also admit to being angry that I am left to deal with aging parents on my own.  I find I have a grudging admiration for the tenacity it takes to follow through on this.  A tenacity that I feel, for myself, is best directed at other things.  Like staying off the smokes and exercising daily. 

Throughout the course of my life I have often been overwhelmed by feelings of being trapped.  As a single parent this was manifested quite magnificently.  Wisdom is now allowing me to see that the only thing that ever traps me completely is my own attitude and by blanketing myself with the feeling of being trapped I am unable to see anything to move forward towards.  Being trapped is a very safe way of being.  A comfort zone, if you will.

In order for me to loosen and start to remove the blanket that traps me I know I don't need to fire my family.  But I do need to acknowledge that I really am now an only child. And there is no-one and nothing to blame for it.  It just is.

Click pic to find source:  an excellent blog post about the
advantages of being and raising an only child.


  1. Wow, I think it is working now! Very interesting post though when reading it I thought we are all only children, except on Walton's Mountain. I am in touch with an old friend whose family is so divided it would make your head spin and the patriarch is 95.
    Trapped and plots to escape from a very young age, eh?
    Wise of you to realize our traps are of our own making and perhaps your sister is not free of hers, dramatic and all as her "divorce" has been.

  2. WWW: Glad to have you go 'live'. A divorce divides the assets - so I'm actually secretly delighted to have the solo attention of two pretty special people (my parents).


These comments are basically unmoderated. Please do not contribute to the need for me to change that setting.