"Hi Jamie!!!" is screamed to me by the littles (my preferred phrase to describe small children) of the court several times a week, anytime I am seen outside of the house in our cul-de-sac. I not only look forward to hearing their sweet little voices, I LOVE it.
I was raised as an only child. Stereotypes of only children are that they don't know how to share, are spoiled rotten, and that they are not good at socializing with others. Proudly, I can say that for me, all of those (and even more not mentioned), are not correct. I tend to be the exact opposite of everything mentioned.
I love sharing, and have for as long as I can remember. I can think back to my earliest memories of being with my family or my close friends, and always being the one who would worry about if they had enough of whatever it was 'it' was, often times offering up some of my own item to assure myself that they were taken care of and not going without.
The spoiled rotten part, though not entirely false... because I was an only child after all.... was never due to not hearing the word 'no'. I, like most children, heard it often, and was taught by my parents to understand that it was ok to not always get what I wanted, and that it would always be like that in life. I was taught that along with hearing the word and understanding what it meant, that it also was true for losing. I remember my mom telling me that I wouldn't always be the best at everything I tried to do, and that it was OKAY to fail at something. My dad would encourage me to not only pick myself up when I fell, which I did often, but to learn from my mistakes so that I would hopefully not do them repeatedly.
The last serotype I mentioned, the one about not being well at socializing with others, well, lets just say that I have always been, and most likely will always be, the first one to break an awkward silence in a room. My mom used to say that I never met a stranger, and I must say that is about the truest statement one could use to describe me. This ability has helped me profoundly over the years, and gives people the sense that they must know me from somewhere. I am easily trusted, relied upon, and told secrets to. I do not seek this information out or ask people into my life... it just happens, as if by magic, or by fate.
Growing up an only child meant that I desperately wanted siblings. I would beg for them, asking for a brother or sister for birthdays and Christmas, not fully understanding how exactly one went about obtaining such a thing. My mom would always give me the same solid answer; "Sorry honey, but it's just not going to happen". I remember asking one time, in a desperate plea that I am sure included big crocodile tears, why her and dad wouldn't give me an older brother. She looked me straight in the eyes, and while I was expecting her to say something sweet like 'because we already have the perfect child', instead I heard "because having one child is enough. I do not like children; except for you of course.". Oh. Well, ok then.
Shortly after hearing those words come from my mom, I started dreaming of becoming a mom one day. I would tell my friends that I was going to have a house full of kids, and that they would all have each other to play with and they would never get lonely, because they would always have each other. For those of you that grew up with siblings, you probably wished for being an only child. We do tend to always want what we don't have, don't we? But I would come home from playing with my cousins who were surrounded by siblings and even more cousins, and I would miss the loudness of it all. I was jealous of their bond with each other, their inside jokes and their endless amount of stories from always doing things together. I would come home from friend's houses who had siblings, and I would be so jealous.
Even going to church services would make me realize how lonely it was being an only child. I would be there on the pew, alone, my mindful mom and grandma always there to gently hit the back of my head if I wasn't paying attention, or to scold me if I was day dreaming instead of singing along with the hymns. I wanted so badly to be part of the families that had the big groups of kids. They always had each other. It was just something that I never took for granted and always hoped they knew how special that bond was that they had with each other.
To fill the void as a teenager, I began babysitting. Well, in all honestly, this started when I was still a child yet myself. Nine years old, my next door neighbor came to me in a panic one day asking me if I could watch her newborn twins so she could run to the store for formula. Not blinking or thinking twice, I said yes and ran into the house, eager to stand my ground and be there for those sweet little babies. I had no idea what I would do if they woke up, and I think now looking back, that their mom was probably praying for them to sleep the entire time, scared herself of what I would do to comfort them, having NO experience what-so-ever with babies prior to this. But, luckily for us both, they did sleep through the quick trip to the store and back, and she came back so relieved that all had went well, that she asked me to do it again one day... then for a bit longer on another day... and so on and so on, until one day I was babysitting them for multiple hours at a time. That turned into watching the little girl across the street, then the doctor's little girl down the block, and then my best friend's nieces. I was running a business of taking care of little lives, when I was still far from puberty myself. Looking back, it was insane... yet there I was, not only doing it, but doing it well.
I babysat from age nine, all the way through my adult years, only stopping when I moved out of state at age 35. You read that correctly. I babysat in some compacity, for over 26 years. During all of those years of watching other people's babies, I always would dream of some day being a parent of my own. As I would rock a baby to sleep, read a bedtime story to a little who fought sleep, or wipe away the tears a skinned knee had brought, I would always think how I couldn't wait for this in my own life. I dreamed of how I would set up my nursery, what kind of sitter I would want, what my husband and I would name our kids.
I would lecture the kids who would fight relentlessly with their siblings, especially if the words "I hate you" were ever heard yelled or uttered at one another. I would sit them down and make sure they understood how special of a bond they had, and how honored they were to have siblings in their lives. I would remind them that while they may seem like annoyances now, that one day, when they were older, they would be friends, and would look back on their childhood and think of all the memories and love they shared with each other over the years.
Longer story short, as I am getting ready to approach 44yrs of age, I never did get to live out my dream of becoming a mother. I have been blessed to be a bonus "aunt" to several of my friend's kiddos, and a stepmother twice. I met my husband's son when he was 8yrs old. I sadly missed out on the years I so desperately longed to share with a child. I never got to rock him to sleep, help him learn how to walk or hear his first words. As a stepmom, I am not usually the one that advice is asked of, confessions are not given, and excitement over spending time with me is usually saved for playing video games with his friends.
My hopes these days are to someday be a grandma, with a grandbaby or two to spoil and share the joys of watching grow up. That however will hopefully not happen for at LEAST 15-20 years from now. In the meantime, I love to see the excitement and joy on the faces of the little's in the neighborhood when I can surprise them with a cookie, usually a spare or a 'reject' from my last order. Sometimes those smiles come from sharing our extra Halloween or Christmas decorations with them, or giving them bubbles to play with that I found at the discount store. Other times, they don't even realize that they are bringing ME joy by simply running around the cul-de-sac playing and laughing and just being kids, and smiling ear-to-ear when they see me and wave eagerly at me shouting hello.
Other ways that I fill the motherhood void is by doing for others. That part of me never changed from when I was a kid. I would still rather do for others than have them do for me, though that doesn't mean I don't occasionally appreciate being the recipient of something nice being done for me. Giving and doing for those that I care for not only comes naturally, but it feels like a piece of me that just has to happen.... almost as if my well-being depends on it. I have been an empath most of my life. I can literally find the good in everyone, even those who do not deserve that respect from me.
I often think that the reason I enjoy creating cookies for everyone is seeing the reactions that they can bring to others. Maybe all of us are just little kids at heart, and a iced cookie brings that kid out, leaving us vulnerable to the joys we thought we could only feel when we were young.