For all my fellow only children out there, you know the drill. From the time we’re young, we are subject to all of the stereotypical only child sentiments: “I’m so jealous, you probably get whatever you want,” or “aww that’s so sad, you must get so bored,” and my personal favorite “what’s it like?! You don’t even seem like an only child!”
For some strange reason, people tend to envy us, pity us, or just down-right think we’re another species. NEWS FLASH: just because our parent’s decided that one child was more than enough to supply a sufficient amount of grey hairs does not mean that we are a rare, mysterious unicorn breed! I always loved being an only child– I mean, I’ve never known any different, other than I couldn’t wait to leave the houses of my friends who had screeching baby brothers and sisters.
What I do know, though, is that being an only child was the most influential thing to fully prepare me for adulthood. So cheers, mom and dad!
1. We’re independent
When I went away to college freshman year, I couldn’t believe how many people were petrified to go to the dining hall alone, walk to class alone, and even take a shower in the communal bathroom alone (weird, I know). For me, it was opposite. I had never lived in tight quarters with anyone, so any chance I had to be alone I jumped on, even if that meant going to grab a bowl of cereal and eat it in the corner of the dining hall like a loser (I have had multiple cleaning ladies come up to me thinking I was foreign and didn’t speak English because why else would I be alone?). I’ve never had a problem doing anything by myself. Shopping, going to the doctor, driving—you name it, I’ll do it with me, myself, and I. My parents could go on a month long road trip and I’d be perfectly content having the house to myself. It’s nice to go through life not having to depend on other people.
2. We have no problem talking to adults
If you’re an only child, chances are you’re like me and spent most of your childhood being dragged to social gatherings with your parents and their friends. Don’t get me wrong: I love my parent’s friends dearly, but I had to learn very quickly how to mature and interact with people 30 years older than me or risk picking at my cuticles for 4 hours until my parents were ready to leave. While it may have been boring then, I never realized how much it prepared me for talking to teachers, professors, future employers, and even random people on the street now that I am an adult.
3. We’re perfectionists
Contrary to popular belief, being an only child is a lot of pressure. You have to pave your own way in life and there is no little sibling to pin any blame on. Most people think that only children float through life because they aren’t in the shadow of an older sibling or the golden first-born, but this is far from true. Even when I was in 2nd grade and got report cards that rated your grades as either “P for Passing, S for Satisfactory, and N for Needs Improvement,” I was always striving to make my parents happy and get good grades. I was never just a priority, I was the priority, and the spotlight was all on me. Now that I am an adult, this is both a blessing and a curse. With no one else to compete with, I only have myself to be better than, which can be enough to drive anyone crazy from time to time but always ends up with an awesome result.
4. We’re the perfect balance between introvert and extrovert
Spending time alone can be nice, but it does get a bit lonely. I’ll admit that there are times when I get caught in a cycle of not wanting to leave the comforts of my home. Why would I want to leave my nice, quiet house to socialize with a bunch of riff-raff? I’ve luckily realized how to balance this out and, like most only children, are the best at being introverted extroverts. Want to go out? We’re down. Want to stay in bed and watch Netflix and forget what the sun looks like? We’re down to do that too. What most people don’t realize, however, is that at the end of all of this, we do need time to go back into our little cocoon and regroup from all of the social stimulation that we’re not used to, so don’t be offended if we hole away for a while. But while the common stereotype of an only child is that we are high maintenance and brats, most of us are surprisingly very go-with-the-flow.
5. Our parents are our best friends
Let’s face it, we all like to resist the fact that 9/10 we’re all going to end up growing up to be our parents. As an only child, this is more than true. The older I get, the more I see how I am becoming my mother, mainly because of all of the time we spent together while I was growing up. We spent so much time together that I unknowingly picked up on different mannerisms and habits of hers that I find myself doing in my every-day adult life. Everything I know how to do from cooking to paying bills comes from observing my mother my entire life.
My father, on the other hand, is responsible for the fun side of me, since he became my buddy on every trio family vacation we ever took. As much as we claim we don’t want to be like our parents, I count this as a blessing. Growing up an only child, I was fortunate enough to have enough quality time to learn first-hand how to be an adult, so the transition wasn’t a huge culture shock to me. In my perspective, I see it as my parents loved and cared for me so much that they decided to focus their already limited energy and time on just me, trying to give me the best life and opportunities they could and support me as I become the best version of myself that I can be, and I thank them every day for that.