Are you an only child? Ever wondered what it’s like to have siblings? Have siblings? Then this should sound more than familiar…
As an only child, I have never had to share; toys, clothes, attention and love were all mine. Fighting for the remote was nonexistent, I got the last cookie every time, and always was The Favorite. For my parents, they only had to get one cranky child up and out the door in the morning, and only had to attend one Parent Night at a time. Generally speaking, life was pretty straightforward.
This past Spring Break, a friend invited me and another friend to go on a weeklong trip with her and her family of five. Two parents, three kids, plus the two of us. The only time I’d traveled with that many people had been on school trips.
Also like on school trips, we travelled in a bus van—traveling with my own parents usually involved sliding easily into the backseat of a taxi. Seating in the van, it turned out, took some tact. During the first few days, we sat where it was most convenient, but soon enough, each of us had established our niches. Dad and Oldest Child (the friend that had invited us along) sat in the driver’s and the front seat respectively, the former because he was one of two adults that could be trusted with the vehicle, and the latter because she was both prone to carsickness, and had a knack for finding good music on the radio. In the second row came Older Younger Brother (aged seventeen), Younger Younger Brother (age nine) in the middle, then Mom. The first was a still-growing teenager and needed the leg room that the back couldn’t provide. The youngest, I presume, liked being sandwiched in the middle, and Mom had given up her coveted seat at the front for Oldest Child. Then came Us—the tagalong friends. We happily sat in the back seats, where we struggled to keep our conversations appropriate and cuss-free.
What struck me first about being in a family was the near-constant buzz. From the scurry of multiple footsteps, to the rustle of sandwich-making for the day, and to the seemingly incessant sound of the shower, there was always something to listen to. Voices, too, were a frequent sound. This constant availability of conversation was perhaps most noteworthy. As an only child, I had always had to devise ways of entertaining myself, especially on trips where the chance of finding similarly aged companions was usually pretty low; it was during times like these that I learned to doodle, write nonsensical stories and became a bookworm. That week, though, I never ran out of people to talk to, or things to talk about (though my ignorance of video games ended that conversation with Younger Younger Brother).
And if the constant availability of an interlocutor wasn’t enough, there were the game nights. This family was big on cards, and by the end of the trip, I was, too. Nearly every night, we played card games that lasted way past my bedtime. From the fast-paced table-smackers that tested your reflexes, to the strategically challenging ones, card games were a satisfying—yet often frustrating-way to cap off the day; it didn’t even matter that I was unskilled in both categories. On our final night, we played Celebrity, a game that involved two teams (there were certainly enough of us), miming, elevated heart rates and frustration. Knowing that chances to play such a game with such a family again in the near future would be scarce, I pushed for a second round.
For one week, I got to be in a Big Happy Family. Aside from learning the quirks of living with multiple people and [barely] grasping the rules of Hearts, I loved witnessing the familial intimacy, and greatly appreciated being included in their unit. Besides, it was a nice break from being around teen and twenty-something college students.
Among those appropriate and cuss-free conversations in the back seats of the van, the Other Friend and I gabbed about our lives as only children, and how cool it was pretending to be otherwise for a week.
Image Credit: R. E. Pritchard, Shakespeare’s England