Being an only child is interesting. And by interesting, I mean it’s fucking awesome.
Clearly, it’s all I know, but as I raise my own only child, it’s brought up a lot of thoughts, conversations and emotions.
As a child, I remember looks and words of pity from other children and parents alike about my sibling status. I remember adults making judgmental statements about being certain that I was a “spoiled brat” and almost being fearful of my personality prior to even knowing me because surely, only children can’t be nice, don’t share well with others, and must be socially awkward. While pieces of all of those things may be true, I never understood why some viewed, and still do view, these as traits exclusive to only children (the dreadful “only child syndrome”). I know plenty of assholes and mentally unstable people who have siblings.
To be perfectly honest, yes, I lived a pretty charmed childhood. I was raised in a middle class neighborhood by parents who worked their asses off to give me a good life, and I didn’t truly want for anything. There were no younger children in my extended family, which translated into me being the center of the universe in my younger years, and maybe somewhat in my not so younger years, but I digress. I had three step-cousins who grew up down the street from me, and they were the closest to siblings as I could possibly get. I loved my life.
I did pretend to want a sibling in my elementary school years because it sounded like a semi-good idea, but the truth was, I really liked being an only child. I had plenty of friends, I learned how to share well (eventually), I became extremely generous as I transcended into adulthood, I was always taught a strong work ethic, I am extremely self-sufficient and independent, I formed a bond with both of my parents that was unprecedented amongst my friends, and I was extremely social. I liked my own space, and still do. I was bossy as a child, and I was very particular, and still am, but again, I’m not sure those translate into any kind of “syndrome” from being an only child. We will never know, right?
The biggest negative for me of being an only child is now, in the present. I’m pushing 40 and now is when I do sometimes wish I had sibling. Watching my parents age, especially with a father who has been in extremely ill health for the past year, is tough to do alone. But who’s to say if I had a sibling that we would have some unbreakable bond and be able to lean on each other for support? Not every sibling relationship thrives. This might not even be considered a wish to have a sibling; it’s more of a curiosity of what that relationship would have looked like.
I now have unbreakable bonds with a few friends and cousins. No, they’re not a sibling replacement of any kind, but nonetheless, they’re strong bonds and a thick foundation for all that matters in life—family.
So, raising an only.
Needless to say, I can’t imagine it any other way. I knew when my daughter was first born that I would never have another. Motherhood was way too intense of an experience for me from the beginning to go through it again. Now that might be a result of having a small family or being an only child, but again, who knows?
What I do know is that I’m raising her, like we all try to do, to simply be a good person with good character. And guess what? I can do this without having another child.
She is taught to share with friends, encouraged to socialize, taught the value of money and hard work, rewarded for positive behavior, and punished for undesirable acts—just like children with siblings.
Now that I’m raising my own only child, the looks of shock, surprise, pity and disgust and the comments (“You cannot just have one child!” “You have to have another child, for her,” or “Oh, she must be so spoiled”) are truly offensive, not only to me as a mother, not only to my parents for having an only, but to my character because I am an only child.
My daughter is not suffering because she is an only child. It is not some form of torture. I am not turning her into some horrible human with malicious intent because I decided to not have another child. I am a fairly well-adjusted adult raising a child to the best of my ability and having a sibling for her would have no bearing on this.
Is she spoiled? As much as I hate that word, yes, I guess she is. No, she doesn’t get everything she wants and demands, but she has a charmed life. And if she had a sibling, he or she would be living a charmed life as well. Why? Because I can. Because I work my ass off to do so. And I can do so while also teaching her good morals and values, just as my parents did for me.
In reality, it’s all in the way each and every one of us is raised, sibling or no. I turned out all right and so will my daughter.