I’m an only child who enjoyed being an only child. I enjoyed my friends and playing outside for hours upon hours, but I also enjoyed the time I had by myself. On top of that, I was fairly shy and introverted so I valued my privacy.
When I moved to rural Alaska I was faced with the exact opposite. Many houses are very small and filled with people. When relatives come to visit they know they are welcome crashing on the sofa or sharing a bed. Siblings share sofas and mattresses and sometimes even floor space. When sitting on the sofa, teenagers pile right up next to me and younger kids sprawl on our laps. When traveling with kids for school trips, one sleeps on the same classroom floor as them – or in the same hotel room if traveling to the city. I remember being amazed that students actually know what their teacher’s pj’s look like. It never occurred to me growing up in cities that my teachers even had homes, or lives outside of school, let alone pj’s and specific flavors of toothpaste. It’s nice.
It’s different at first, but there’s a coziness and friendliness and acceptingness that I really have come to embrace.
Yet, I haven’t made any strides to change things in my own day to day life. I’m more open about saying, “come on by”, but I’m also happy when people call ahead so that I can prepare a bit. I like the idea of our house being filled with guests and visitors, but I also really like our quiet space as we get ready to go to bed. I’m torn with images of friendly vibrant busy homes and the quiet peaceful easiness of our own where our time is our own.
And amidst this ongoing conflict, I notice the messages I send to my kids.
Tonight I was lying on the sofa (still am) plum tired with only one eye managing to stay open at any time. Little girl was sitting in my lap and I was reading a book with her. Little boy ran up and asked if he could join in and as he climbed up to also sit on my lap, I heard myself saying some words I’d been saying quite a bit…”The More the Merrier”.