I’m writing this in response to the article “The 4 Worst Things About Being an Only Child” on Thought Catalog. Everybody who has ever been a child has had their own experiences that shape them up into who they are today. If you are the 5th child out of 10 or the only, it really all comes down to how your parents raised you. But the issue of being an only child arises from the one thing we have that’s different from other kids: we have no siblings.
Here is my take on the 4 good things about not having siblings:
1. Since I grew up without kids like myself around, I learned to blend in with the grown ups earlier. Sure I had tons of toys to play with to compensate for not having siblings, but this didn’t stop me from seeking actual human interaction. Grown ups can only try and stoop to my level for a given amount of time, so when they couldn’t spend all their free time with me, I would follow them around and see what they were up to. Even when I had my cousins around, I found that when the grown ups started to gather on the table and have their little chit chats, I found it more interesting than having mini concerts with my cousins. I guess because when all you hear all the time is grown up talk, you begin to identify with it better and it becomes comfortable, even soothing.
When I finally graduated from college and spent a good amount of time with people my age in the real world, I couldn’t get why they shriek over cute guys and place so much importance on petty things like clothes and pop culture. In lieu of that, I found myself enjoying talking to the elderly about their lives and how they survived it. I don’t know how to make a lot of friends my age and the best evidence of this was when I found myself and my boyfriend on double dates with my co-workers who are both over 60 years old. And it’s not so surprising how much I enjoyed those dates.
2. I learned to be very cautious about the things I did at a very young age. Not having siblings meant that if I made a mistake, my parent’s attentions will be drawn to me automatically. There is no splitting the blame. It will be just me in the spotlight, ready to be praised or admonished.
3. You know how siblings trash talk each other effortlessly? And it seems okay to each party that they are called all those ugly names? I never got comfortable with that. Even if I’m just listening in on conversations of siblings, I cringe at how they berate each other about non-issues. I never learned to hate someone on default. I never had someone to compete with, so I never had the need to shoot someone down by making them look bad just because. If I ever hate someone, it has to really stem from something, not just for the mere reason that they exist and I somehow need to outshine them.
4. I am too responsible for my own sanity…most of the time anyway. I don’t know a lot of only children in the family but the few people that I know seem to all be very put together. I guess this comes from two things. One, because we were around grown ups so much we picked up on all their grown-up-y habits. And two, because we never had siblings, we never learned how to let loose with other kids at home and not care if we slept with chocolate on our faces because the other kid has more.
I have shared a couple of apartments with different groups of friends and I always end up thinking about everything. How many pairs of curtains do we need? Is our dish soap gonna last one more day? Are we using too much electricity? I always find myself cleaning up right after a party, because I feel like there is no one else to do it—even when I know my room mates will eventually pick up the pace.
Growing up as an only child had it’s perks and disadvantages. The things I mentioned above were my experiences specifically resulting from not having siblings, not from how people treated me because I was an only child. Whether I grew up to be insecure or confident couldn’t be pinned down on being an only child. How I turned out because of and in spite of not having siblings was a result of how my parents used the luxury of their time and attention on me.