Family Life: On Being an Only Child


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Growing up, it isn’t uncommon for most people to have at least one sibling. While I am not familiar with the actual statistics of multiple-child families, I, an only child, remember feeling like a rarity.

To people like me, the idea of having a brother or sister is totally foreign. Sure, my best friends had siblings that were kind of like siblings to me. But I didn’t live with them in the same house for 18 years.

As an only child, I often get asked, “What’s it like being an only child?”

That’s like asking me what breathing oxygen or having blue eyes is like. I don’t know how to explain it… it just is. It’s the only thing I’ve ever experienced so, to me, it’s just the natural way of things. I have nothing to compare it to.

There is a great deal of debate on whether having one child is beneficial to the child, or if growing up with siblings is better. Sometimes there is no choice to be made, though.

In my case, medical reasons prevented my parents from having a second child after I was born.

Then there are couples who decide to only have one child.

It would be impossible for someone to write an objective comparison between being an only child and being one of several because there is no way for an individual to experience both.

However, since it’s likely you, dear reader, have a sibling or two, I will try to describe what it was like being an only child.

First of all, that sibling rivalry thing that’s so prevalent in the movies? I have never had to deal with it. I wasn’t competing for affection or to be the best. I was the best. Because I was the only.

Maybe that made me a bit self-centered. However, I personally feel like being an only child is advantageous.

Sure, it can be lonely growing up. But you learn to fend for yourself and to express yourself as an individual at an early age. You have no one to try to emulate so you find your own way.

While my childhood experience wasn’t necessarily a happy-go-lucky, fulfilling one, I don’t believe being an only child affected me negatively. I don’t consider it a factor in the less wholesome aspects of my youth.

Obviously, I’m not saying that the decision to have only one child is a good or bad one. I feel quite strongly that a family of any number can make it work as long as it is full of encouragement, affection, and nurture.

I simply wanted to share a tiny sliver of the world of an only child.

Oh, and one more thing. There is a sort of stereotype that paints only children as social outcasts and weirdos. I won’t say it’s totally wrong. It’s harder to acclimate socially if you spend most of your time by yourself.

The good thing is, you learn to adapt pretty quickly, and the close friends you make fill those empty roles.

I’m an adult now, which still shocks me, and I’d say I’m doing just fine.

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