Ancient History

Follow Me?



Aidan recently participated in a conference for young writers. Kindergartners through eighth-graders were invited to submit and read stories to their peers. It was her third year, her third commemorative t-shirt, but the first year I got mad.

Her story was about a stinky unicorn named Pewnicorn. Poor Pewnicorn is so wretchedly stinky her fifty-five 17 year old sisters wanted nothing to do with her. Neither does Pewnicorn’s mother. I’ve had moments as a mom when I thought my kids were just too nasally foul, but I dug down deep and managed somehow. Not Pewnicorn’s mama.

Pewnicorn had to run away.

A lovely princess came upon a weeping Pewnicorn in the forest. The princess took Pewnicorn back to the castle. After many baths in roses and dinners of fresh grapes, Pewnicorn’s problem faded. Her family was still skeptical upon their eventual reunion, so Pewnicorn returned to the castle to finish the de-stinking process. Finally, her family accepted her and her mother renamed Pewnicorn “Rose” to celebrate.

The End.

I thought her story was typical and charming—a good effort by a sincere third-grader. After a few more stories another third-grader stood to read her story. I lost count of how many times my jaw dropped as I listened.

For example the little girl used the phrase “swimming in a river of my mother’s shame”. I decided at that moment this was no typical child. I refuse to speculate whether these were truly the words of a nine-year-old because the issue that ticked me off the most was when one of the beaming teachers gushed, “She must be an only child!”

Then she quickly added, “because of the way (main character) talks about her siblings…”

The girl’s mom confirmed she is an only child. I began to think about Aidan listening to this exchange and wondering how she felt as a girl with four brothers and a new sibling on the way. Only children write astounding stories about distant workaholic parents, easily switching between first and third person, past-tense and present-tense.

My kid writes a story about a stinky unicorn, and I couldn’t be more proud. She knew her audience—other young children. How? Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, she eats with, talks too, plays with, fights, hugs, laughs with, sleeps under the same roof with, rides with, watches “Spongebob” with, negotiates with, apologizes to, and shares her life with her four brothers. So much is asked of her, and I know she has and will make sacrifices because of her situation.

I happen to know she wouldn’t change a thing, and neither would I. There are certainly benefits of being an only child. I don’t dispute that. Overlooked, I feel, are the benefits of growing up with many other children constantly around.

10 comments to Brood

  • hamster

    While I know that conventional wisdom holds that only children do get more attention, I’ve never heard anyone in our generation talk about having an only child because they think it’s better for the child. I know people who are doing that because one is enough for them, the mom’s first pregnancy was difficult and late in life, the dad doesn’t really help with childcare, etc. It’s interesting the teacher would express that view so blatantly. In general, I think there’s much more of a tendency at the moment to sing the praises of growing up with a sibling or in a large family. But, I haven’t been going to story readings, or preschool evaluations and the like so perhaps I just haven’t encountered the solo child bias. I must say, whether the teacher’s remarks were unusual or typical, I don’t think it’s fair to generalize that only children have workaholic parents.

  • mopsy

    Oh, I agree. I felt bad for the girl’s mother because the story was pretty negative. I am sure she thought everyone was assuming the story to be somewhat autobiographical. The thought crossed my mind, I have to admit, because where does a little kid get that stuff? (Answer #1 of many = TV) Then again, one could read a lot into a cold-hearted mother unicorn rejecting her young smelly daughter…

    The situation reminds me of an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” One of his twin sons, about this age, wrote a story called “The Angry Family” and the whole clan was mortified at the thought it was about them. They began to fight about it, got angry, and made asses of themselves while trying to deflect what should have been a non-issue.

  • Does a nine year old understand or use the word “shame?” You wouldn’t speculate but I will. I would really question that phrase rolling out of the mind of a third/fourth grader.

    Pewnicorn sounds like a lovely tale. You should be proud.

    Right before I read this post, Chad and I were talking about how beautiful it is to watch our daughters love each other. Sure, they fight, argue, tease, etc., but their bond is so deep. Their love for each other is so visible. Watching their relationship in action is one of my greatest joys. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a large family like you!!! I can’t imagine an only child. I am grateful that I at least have 2.

    By the way…I saw that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. The show makes me laugh although they present some very real and dark family issues through comedy.

  • Mopsy, this was beautiful, and dead-on to something I’ve been thinking of lately. While I sometimes lament the lack of individual time I have with each of my kids, I look at the constant cameraderie, the millions of chances to learn about “dying to self”, and I think, “Yes, Lord, your design for our family was a very, very good one.”

  • I’d have to agree. I have always thought that it must be sad to grow up an only child. Yes there are benefits. I could never have had just one child

  • Julana

    Maybe she copied parts out of a book?

  • That is a sad commentary by the teacher. My father was an only child and said he would NEVER wish that up on anyone. He said he grew up in an adult world and never felt like he got to be a kid. There were times when I was growing up with my 3 siblings and something would happen. He’d try to get the guilty one to confess. He told us when he was a kid no matter what happened, he got blamed for everything even when he had no idea what it was.

    Your daughter’s story was lovely, btw.

  • An interesting perspective. As an only child, I have grown up having only negative associations with the fact that I have no siblings. It sometimes seems that every little quirk or out-of-the-ordinary thing I say or do is quickly followed by the dismissive comment, “It must be because you’re an only child.”

    No one ever said to me, “Wow, you must really be so good at ______ because you’re an only child.”

    I’m sorry that the teacher was such a buffoon. I think Aidan’s story is very creative!

  • Jenn

    I bet Aidan’s story about Pewnicorns was no less than perfect! She is blessed to have the experiences and love that abounds in large families.

    Someone once said to me, “Wow, I didn’t know you were an only child…(went on)….” then concluded with “For an “only child” you seem to be pretty well rounded. LOL! So, be assured – for some out there – apparently “only children” seem not so well-rounded. Ha! I would have given just about anything to have a sibling to share my life with!

    Your kids are incredibly lucky children!!

  • I LOVE third grade stories. Pewnicorn’s tale was lovely. Were there illustrations?

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