I am an only child.
Growing up people would often look at me like the victim of an offensive crime. As if my parents deciding to only have one child, reflected negatively on them as parents and people. As if the looks of disdain, directed at me – at an age when I was barely even responsible for having a firm grasp on the ABC’s – was in any light justified. As if something were genuinely wrong with my family – with me – for being a part of a small family.
Just about two decades later, I am about to turn 24 – and am firmly planted in the heart of my twenties. The differences were oftentimes obvious between those who were only children, and those that had siblings. In grade school, it would reflect poorly – because it often meant poor social skills, or awkwardness as only children entered their first social settings.
As time went on though, some stereotypes would vanish – while others would become more predominant. In truth, the benefits of being an only child actually outgrew the stigmas attached to being an only child.
I have friends that have siblings, successful ones at that. And, this is not written to take a shot at those who either have siblings, or are parents to multiple children. This is simply in defense of those who have only one child (whether it was by choice or not) and to remind everyone that there will always be plenty of benefits to being an only child, especially when adulthood comes around.
1. We’re not weird or anti-social. The truth is that since we were only children we were exposed to the ridiculousness of our peers a healthy amount less than our counterparts with siblings. Take a peak around the internet, or social media. People can’t get enough of passing judgment onto others. We just got an early start. And the motives of a 4-8 year old are a hell of a lot less malicious than that of twenty-something’s, and above that can’t stop or help themselves anytime someone says something that they dare not agree with 100%.
2. We were never spoiled. We may have been afforded a few, and I mean, very few additional opportunities that those with siblings didn’t receive. And that couldn’t have less to do with being an only child. The opportunities you’re given as a child, or material things that you’re given as a child – are a reflection of your parent’s economic position. If they can provide for their kids, whether they have one, or fifty – they’re going to provide to the best of their ability and give them everything they possibly can. So, let’s not relegate only children to being spoiled, entitled, minions of the upper 2%. I’m fairly confident that being just a little bit entitled is characteristic number one, of good ole Generation-Y.
3. We aren’t selfish, either. As an only child you learn to think critically, and independently far quicker than if you have a sibling to share the stage with. You don’t have that person to go to, and play with, or as you get older – share ideas with – or get advice on life. It’s trial and error. And as I mentioned before, we know that we only have one opportunity at success. Live this way for 20 years, and by the time you’re in your mid-twenties, you’ve seen and experienced enough on your own to know that at the end of the day – you can only rely on yourself.
4. We’re too opinionated. If this one doesn’t make your blood boil, nothing will. I understand that it might be a little intimidating for other children at a young age to talk to adults, or associate with a child that isn’t afraid to have an opinion, or worse yet talk to adults. #5 will dive a little deeper into the talking to adults, but as for the opinionated portion of this point – I refer back to the end of reason #2.
5. We enjoyed the company of adults, better than the company of children. I love this one, because it still has a place in my life. Except now, when I take management assessments for work it will read, “Relates well to upper-management,” and appears on my resume as “capable of working with any member of management.” You know what another perk of this one is? I have better relationships with the people that I report to in my professional life, and it’s afforded me opportunities that my peers (who can’t relate, or communicate nearly as well) simply haven’t been given. So, this one’s for you – Mrs. O – you may have failed me in kindergarten for “lacking the required social skills,” but really the only thing I was lacking was the patience to deal with the animals that were my peers.
…Funny, I still feel this way about my peers at times twenty years later….
6. “He shouldn’t like to be alone that much.” Appreciating and valuing alone time, and giving yourself the opportunity to think freely of others is something that I feel like people either never appreciate until later in life (their twenties, when their first living alone – or finally responsible fully for themselves), or get absolutely manhandled by criticism, from anyone that hasn’t come to appreciate it yet. And all I’m saying is, don’t knock it ‘til you try it. I’m a writer, and I have been for some time. Whether its noise, or just being around people – I am completely unable to get in my zone, and truly get the amount of work done that I like to get done when it is my focus. I will always contend that those who relied heavily on companionship from their siblings – while it’s a great thing – temporarily go through a phase of holding themselves back, from the shock and awe of losing that connection at the early onset of adulthood. Now more than ever, the first few years of adulthood, and consequently your twenties – are far more important than they ever have been in the past – so taking advantage of every moment – is beyond crucial. Time for reflection, and time for thought – alone – is something that most twenty-something’s crave when the hustle and bustle of adulthood fully sets in.
Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe my “Only Child Syndrome” is kicking in again – but I can tell you this much – I’m more than thankful that my parents decided to stop after having just one child, and I’m not by any means afraid to stand by that statement.