Limiting Labels

While having a discussion with my husband, I was reminded of the time when I had just met a new co-worker at one of my previous jobs.  The woman introduced herself and then we had begun talking.  She then asked, “So, how many brothers and sisters do you have?”  I replied, “None.  I’m an only child.”  Her response:  “You don’t act like one.”

Now, what, exactly, is that supposed to mean?  I was unaware that you could tell someone had siblings by the way that he/she acted.  I later learned exactly what this label implies.  Being an only child automatically means that you are selfish, conceited, domineering and an attention seeker.

However, I am none of the above.  I couldn’t wait to go to kindergarten so that I could make friends.  I loved inviting my girlfriends over so that I could share my new Barbies or Polly Pockets.  In fact, I was constantly getting in trouble for talking.  I honestly just loved to be around kids my own age.

There is another stereotype about only children:  we are all lonely.  Secretly, we are hoping that our parents have another child so that we will have someone to play with.  Seriously?  I never felt “lonely” because my parents actually spent time with me.  We were always playing games, watching movies, or going outside to explore.  And I think there is a great fallacy in this assumption.  Do all brothers and sisters want to play with one another all of the time? 

Since my husband has an older sister, he confirmed with me that there were times where (shock!) they wanted to do their own thing.  He wanted to play with Micromachines, she wanted to play with My Little Ponies.  And you know what?  That’s what I call NORMAL.  I cannot think of a single brother/sister pair from any of my classmates that proudly announced that they played together 24/7.  Even if you are one of many siblings, you are still an individual with your own identity, likes and dreams.

And as for my “choice” in being an only child?  That was not my decision to make.  People treat you like you actually had a say in the matter.  I would have never dreamed of saying, “Mom, can you and Dad make a baby for me to play with?”  In my opinion, parents should only have the number of children that they can actually support.

But, I am not the only person living life under a label.  My husband’s label is far worse.  See, he was home schooled!  When he tells people this, they always get a shocked look on their face.  Like, “Wait, he’s normal!  He couldn’t have been home schooled.”

Why is there such a negative connotation with home schooling?  Jamie Grace, an emerging Christian singer, was also home schooled.  At one of her concerts, I remember her saying, “People look at you like you have some sort of a disease.  They’re like, ‘I’m sorry you didn’t have a life.'”

My husband could totally relate.  While he understands that some people choose to home school because they do not believe that the public school system is benefiting the youth of America, he was home schooled for a far different reason.  His parents were both in the Air Force.  They have moved a total of three times.  And they never knew when the next move was coming.

While I am a proponent of public school, I can certainly understand why my mother-in-law decided to teach her own children.  She knew what level of progress they were at as opposed to being told that Matt or his sister would have to start a grade over because they were transferring in during the middle of a school year.  And you know what?  Matt turned out just fine.

We actually met at college.  He made great grades and was always speaking up in class.  His term papers were thought provoking.  And I even had him tutor me in Philosophy!

So, why is society so quick to label only children and home schooled individuals?  We should not be forced to live under such stereotypical labels that only point out the negative side of our positions.  Since we, as a nation, are constantly expanding boundaries (think gay marriage) I feel that this extension should progress to the backwards thinking associated with these two groups.

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