Yes, I’m an only child. And I married a fellow only child. And we are planning on having only one child. So being an only child couldn’t have been as bad as the general public makes it out to be.
Only children are often labeled as “spoiled” or “lonely” among other things. Growing up an only child, I’d like to address that.
I’ve heard the same things said to me countless times. Things that simply aren’t true. Things that are even a little insensitive, if not mean. Making mass assumptions about only children as if we are all some weird homogeneous child-blob is as absurd as thinking all donuts taste the same.
And while there may be some common traits recognized across the board for children born first, middle children, the youngest and so-called “solo children,” it is unfair to place these labels or make these comments when you encounter one of us out in the wild.
1. You must have been so lonely growing up!
Actually, I was not, thank you very much. I grew up being very comfortable with being alone. I had a healthy sense of imagination and never felt like I had to wait on someone else to create a fun time for me. I was in complete control of my destiny – and that enabled me to explore my identity and what I really liked or didn’t like freely.
As a result, I’m one of the rare adults I know totally okay with eating dinner alone or going to catch a movie by myself or even going on a road trip solo. Being alone doesn’t scare me or make me feel sad. I find that to be a gift.
2. You must have been so spoiled.
I guess this one depends heavily on the parents. My parents were very fair and measured. When they did spoil me, I was taught to appreciate those moments and be thankful for what was given to me. I was never raised to expect people to just give me things or do things for me or yield to my every whim and fancy (though that would have been lovely).
It’s also a question of character, which children can and do discern at very young ages. I encountered other kids that acted like Violet from “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory” and I could recognize that behavior was NOT okay.
3. I bet you wish you had a brother or a sister, don’t you?
Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t, but either way, you don’t have to make me feel bad about it. There were times I appreciated my only-childness – like that time I NEVER had to share a room with anyone, or never had to wear hand-me-downs (new clothes for days!) or when I got my parent’s undivided attention at every dinner, outing and moment I wanted it.
There were nights when I wished I had a sibling to build forts with or talk to me when I was afraid of aliens or sneak around the house with during Christmas to find the hidden presents. It was in those moments that an imaginary friend came in handy.
And no, I didn’t need therapy to end my relationship with my imaginary friend. It was a lovely and totally normal breakup.
4. You must have a hard time making friends. Because you’re shy.
I was shy, but I was also kind and nice and had enough confidence to approach other peers who I deemed also as kind. I consumed enough “Barney” and other similar children’s programming on television to learn the necessary skills of making a friend.
And I was an only child, not a closeted hermit. My parents made sure I had opportunities to meet and bond with other kids my own age at school programs, church groups and playdates. Just because I didn’t have another child in the house 24/7 did not mean that I had no concept of what another child is and how to approach one when I encountered them.
5. You must have a hard time sharing with others.
I honestly get the logic behind this one. I’m sure that naturally, having more than one kid in the house leads to the necessity of sharing. But sharing can also happen with kids learning how to share with other adults or in the classroom.
A lot of times, it seemed that only children got to learn the concepts of sharing without all of the fighting and competition among siblings. It was a more peaceful, quieter learning process.
So please, I beg of you, think twice before you feel pity for an only child. We’re people too.
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