Sometimes, I have to wonder how it must feel to be an only child. It’s not that I have ever wanted to be an only child, but rather that I was simply curious about how life was for those who were only children. I have a niece, Toni, who has one son, James, who seems perfectly happy as an only child, and I know several other people, now adults, who are their parents’only children, and are also quite happy with their life. I suppose that you only know your life the way it is, and so what might seem strange to someone else, seems perfectly normal to you. Having grown up with four sisters, I can’t imagine life as an only child, nor can I imagine life with brothers. I think the family dynamic would have been so much different that it would have been nothing like what I grew up with. I guess, each life is what it is supposed to be.
But, what of the only child, who after a number of years, suddenly isn’t an only child anymore? How odd would that be? That is exactly what happened for my Aunt Laura Spencer Fredrick and for my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg. Aunt Laura was 10 years old, when she suddenly became a sister to my Uncle Bill, and then my dad 28 months later, and my Aunt Ruth 19 months after that. Aunt Laura adapted very well to all these new siblings, especially Uncle Bill. They became very close, because my grandmother worked at the hotel the family ran, so Aunt Laura was instrumental in raising young Uncle Bill. I don’t know how much her help was needed with my dad, and Aunt Ruth, but my guess is that it was quite a bit, and I’m also quite sure she did a very good job of assisting her mother. Those older children are usually almost an extra parent.
For my mother-in-law, things were a little bit different in that she was an only child until her sister, Linda was born when she was 3 months short of 16 years old, and her sister Margee followed 25 months later. I’m sure that to a degree, she helped her mother out, but since she was in high school, and the family lived in the country, there was a period of time when she often stayed with friends in Colstrip, Montana so she would be able to get to school. By the time Margee arrived, my mother-in-law was dating her future husband, my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg. They would marry just under 6 months later, and their first child, a daughter they named Marlyce was born just 13 months later, so my mother-in-law was busy with her own family and could no longer be a help to her mother. Most of her life was spent as an only child, even though she no longer was one.
I have to think that life for these two women must have seemed, to a degree anyway, like it was turned upside down. What they had always thought their life was going to be like was now totally different than I t had been before. I wish I could ask them if that had seemed strange to them, or if it just seemed like a normal next phase in their lives. I suppose that helping out with those younger siblings did train them in how to be a mother, which is good for anyone who plans to have kids. Nevertheless, I have to think that it must have seemed odd to go from an only child to a big sister in a few short months. Life takes it’s own twists and turns, and we just have to go with the changes, because that’s what life is all about