I don’t know what it’s like in a home with a single child. All my experience has been with multiple children, both in my upbringing and in my own parenting. I can remember, as a child, times that I played well with my brother and sisters, and times they got on my nerves. Years passed and we each grew, started our own families, and made our own careers. You just seem to get busy managing your own life, but squeeze out the obligatory holiday gatherings to catch up with one another (even though you live in the same town). And then as you grow older, your parents pass away and you realize that your siblings are all that’s left of your original family. That awareness tends to make you draw back together, to appreciate the time together and recognize that you won’t have very many more years like this.
This awareness also makes me look at my own children. I can remember bringing each of them home and the older ones being excited for that new baby in the house. Infants and immobile babies are pretty easy to get along with. As they grew older there were the usual skirmishes over toys and territory — the things parents get to referee on a daily basis.
Because of the age differences in my children, our household was a combination of teens with children, and then college students with teens. Most of these years seemed to be a combination of barely tolerating each other and being embarrassed by each other. The boundaries often were blurred by who got what privileges and who wasn’t being treated fairly. And sometimes it seemed the only times they were cordially existing in the same room was when Michael or I declared an immediate peace treaty for family dinners or vacations.
Before you know it they are grown individuals, making their own decisions on when to come and go, and who they will spend their time with. They choose to look elsewhere for those close relationships. Oh, they come home when they’re summoned. But gatherings can be marked by hurt feelings. Maybe somebody’s too sensitive. Maybe somebody else isn’t sensitive enough. Words are said. Jabs are taken. And you wonder if they’ll ever really like each other again.
And then something happens as time passes. Maybe they, too, realize that one day they will only have each other from their original family. Maybe they begin to appreciate how quickly the years will pass. And you learn that they are texting each other, even though mom didn’t start the group text conversation. You find out that they FaceTime each other and laugh and have meaningful conversations without being prompted. You see them change their plans and drive hours just to spend time with each other. You see them cancel other activities so they can be together to eat and laugh and play cards and silly games. You see them help each other and encourage each other. You see them pray for one another.
And then you think … maybe they really do like each other after all.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4
And because we often find ourselves all in the same place only about once a year…