The Loneliest Number? Confessions of an Only Child
If you are thinking about having kids, there are a lot of questions you probably have. How many kids do you want? What kind of environment will they be raised in? Or probably most importantly what if you and the person you have a child with don't stick it out? While these are very realistic concerns to deal with in a relationship, the first question always seems to be easy until it happens.
I don't have children but I was a child myself and growing up an only child was a fun, unique, and sometimes wild experience but it's mine. And as the years have gone by, I get asked the same questions. Don't you love being an only child? Did you wish you had a sibling? While there have been times where the answers have changed for me, I can't regret something I can't dictate.
But I can be honest about the myths of being an only child versus the reality and what you probably want to know when planning a family.
I was born an only child, but I'm not the child of only children. Both my parents come from significantly large families. My dad was the second oldest of seven and my mom was the second of five children. While they had the experience of growing up in a big family, their respective responsibilities and challenges shaped their outlook on life and family.
When I was younger, I had the benefit of having a lot of family around. I stayed with my grandparents during school vacations and played with my cousins on weekends. Of course, I wasn't always surrounded by family so I did spend a good deal of time alone. But all in all the interactions I had helped shaped me and developed my skills set.
There were times I thought it was hard being me, but like anyone else I came to realize that my circumstances could be worse. I never questioned if my parents loved me or why they loved me, they just did. Being a kid is one of the few pure joys in life and I'm glad to say while everything didn't work the way I wanted, it worked the way I needed it to.
Advantages to Single Life
Independence: One thing that was awesome for me was the independence I developed early on. My parents never told me or asked me to be like anyone else, so as a result I had a strong sense of self. When I was middle and high school, I didn't feel pressured by the desire to fit in and while that did cause some trouble it kept me out of it more often than not. Peer pressure never really got to me so it has helped even into adulthood not to feel like I belong to a group or cause just because it's hip.
Always Favored: Most people I know have siblings and rather or not it's mentioned, they always struggle in the shadow of another sibling. It's not that parents particularly want to like one child better than the next, it's just a fact of human nature. By being the only child, I never had to compete for attention or act out in such a way to feel accepted by my family.
Unique Interests: I knew some siblings who had to do certain activities or join certain club because they had to do the same thing as their sibling. Not that that's bad, but your right to choose is taken away before you knew you had the possibility. I got involved with a lot of different things as a kid and that was only because it was something that I liked. In the same vein, my taste in music, movies, and television wasn't dictated by a certain person.
Observant Instincts: In many ways, it's a habit of repetition but really it's just knowing how to be nosy without looking like it. When I was in school, I would always observe behaviors, patterns, and details just to get through class. And when I wasn't in school I always had my eyes open to what was around me. It helped me become a good writer as well as a good judge of character.
Creativity: Most only children I know have some sort of creative spark within them. Famous or not, it's par for the course. Spending hours in your room can either lead to infinite genius or infinite insanity. When you don't have someone else to be around, your mind can take you to places that you never knew existed.
Disadvantages to Single Life
Loneliness: There is a difference between loneliness and being alone but as a child it's hard to sense that. On several occasions during my childhood, I wanted what my cousins had: a natural confidant. They could talk to each other about their parents' quirks, the crazies at school, and just everyday things that adults aren't always keen to or interested in.
Social Awkwardness: I struggled with social situations for a long time and in some ways I still do. But for the most part overcoming my shyness and my inability to communicate as clearly as possible took a lot of effort. And sometimes it was the lack of self-awareness in knowing what not to do in certain situations.
Selfishness: I can't begin to say how much I would like this not to be true, but it is. When you only have yourself to worry about for the first eighteen or so years of your life, it's hard to see life through the eyes of others. It's not that I had so much trouble with sharing my possessions, but the actual idea of seeing beyond myself enough to know there was someone else who had the same issues and concerns of life I did.
Moving Target: I know bullying isn't mutually exclusive to being an only child, but I think in many ways having a sibling helps you deal with the quips of other kids. I wasn't keen to knowing how to defend myself besides my mom's requisite ignore them. Had I had a partner in crime, I could have at lest gotten a good punchline out of the deal.
Lack of Swagger: This kind of goes with being a moving target. Part of the reason I was bullied was because I wasn't always hip to what was going on. I didn't speak too much slang, I didn't know how to hang, and I had really bad bangs. While this isn't essential to being a kid, it would have helped that I had more of a youthful edge to get along with my peers than not.
One and Only
As I've grown older and more insightful, I've seen how life has changed around me. While there are many things that have changed, some never change. My parents are the same two people and I am the same kid they had all those years ago.
Like I said at the beginning, being an only child is a gift that keeps on giving. I've had room to be my own person while at the same time I've had a harder path to self-awareness and social adjustment. But that's my experience, it's not every only child's experience.
What happened in my formative years helped shape who I am, but it doesn't define me exclusively. Just as I am an only child, I'm also a female, a minority, and so on. These things shape my experience but at the same time they are still labels.
If you are a fellow only child, I'm sure you have your own experiences and I will be very glad to hear them. Thanks for reading and for stopping by!