Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What We Have

It's none of my business, but I always want to ask.

Every time I get to know a parent of a single child, I wonder how it came to be. Did they always intend to have only one? Or did other factors--health, fertility, timing--decide for them? It's not the result, but the decision-making that I find interesting.

I don't think of these families as oddities. I find them familiar. I am an only child, as is my husband and my father. I'm used to quiet houses and small dinner tables.

My mother is one of six children and wanted a big family. My father is an only child who wanted to live alone on a farm and raise dogs. As best as I can tell, I'm the compromise. That's my story.

I have two children, but I didn't necessarily foresee a family of four. I always told my husband I wanted one child with an option on two. We were a family of three for two years before trying for a second, and our family dynamic felt familiar and comfortable to me. It took a leap of faith to disrupt it by calling that option for baby number two.

It was the right decision for us, but it wasn't one we made lightly. I can't imagine having done otherwise, because we wouldn't be us without our daughter. But what about those families that considered the same factors and decided, "No, thanks. We're good?"

I'm interested to understand how others made this deeply personal decision. What factors did they consider? What about their own upbringing influenced the decision? Did they once desire more but fate intervened?

None of my business. Any of it. Yet I'm curious.

*     *     *

I think I'm fascinated because, nearly eight years into being a mother-of-two, I still find much about siblings unfathomable. I don't understand how anyone can want to touch (or be touched by) another person as much as my children do. I don't understand why they constantly are drawn to each other, even when they are driving each other crazy. I don't understand their desire to provoke each other or the intensity of their rage.

It's all unfamiliar territory to this (happily) only child. I don't understand the sibling relationship, so I remain intrigued by only-child families like the one I grew up in.

*     *     *

I still don't understand the "why," but I get the "what." Siblings have a shared formative experience. They have a live-in playmate and possible confidante. They care for each other differently than friends do. On the good days, I watch my children together and see only that they are there for each other.

Saturday was one of the good days. The kids had their first swim meet of the season. My son is now a third-year veteran, but it was my daughter's first meet and she was nervous. She stood behind the starting blocks waiting for her event to be called as her big brother finished his race. Without drying off, he went up to her, wished her good luck, and then stood with her until her race started.

It was the "standing there" that mattered. I know she appreciated the good luck wishes, but my daughter was visibly comforted by the fact that her brother stood with her.

That's what I lacked as an only child--I never had someone to stand with me the way my kids do. They may bicker and provoke and yell, but they stand with each other when they need it.

No family structure is the right one, but that is what's right about the one that we have.






Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dancing in the Streets

I had no idea what I was getting into. When my son asked, I told him what I knew: "It's a thing in the city with music and friends. There might be a parade."

All true, but not nearly descriptive enough.


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind

The "thing" was PRONK, the Providence Honk Festival. According to the PRONK website, PRONK offers "a heartfelt antidote to mainstream culture by inviting people from all walks of life to come together for a day set aside for the celebration of music." The more descriptive blurb says: "[W]e are a cacophonous street celebration with out of town brass bands! We are a street intervention like no other, with outfits and misfits from Rhode Island and beyond."


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind

What is was for me was an opportunity to get out of homogeneous suburbia and dance in the streets with fun bands, colorfully garbed humans, and giant creatures.


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind

Once the end of the parade passed, the revelers joined in. Trying to walk, dance, and keep an eye on seven children in a crowd, all while swiveling my head to avoid missing anything was a tough recipe for photography, but I did my best.


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind

PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind

At the end of the parade, the music and dancing continued in place. The energy was incredible. I don't remember the last time I had this much fun.


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind

By the end of our celebration, we had seven tired, hungry kids near bedtime. No amount of fun is going to prevent the cranky then, so we did what we had to do--fed them pizza and showed them iPhone videos until it was ready. 


PRONK 2014 - Flotsam of the Mind

I love the space and the quiet of my little suburban town, but I'm hugely grateful to my city-dwelling friends for showing us that there is more to life than what our sleepy little town has to offer. If brass bands, misfits, and giant puppets are part of that, then count me in.