I have read your website and it’s postings with great interest. With the exception of a few it seems that being an only child is perceived as a negative thing, and seems to have had a predominantly detrimental impact on many of your readers and contributors lives.I can relate to many of the observations, not being able to play board games alone (although I had a bloody good try), the worry of ending up alone should anything happen to your parents (I live with this to this day) , and the jealousy of others and their relationships with their siblings. I never thought anyone felt that way, as I did, and as I expect we all have at one time or another.
I am the only child of two devoted older parents, I am now 24, my father will be 77 this year and my mother 67. When I was a child I felt in many ways alone, but never for long. My Mum had longed to have more children, but had left it too late and so she and my father went out of their way to drive me to friend’s houses and organize activities for me at home.
Of course I envied my friends who had sisters and brothers of their age, but I also recognized siblings as a hindrance as well, I was particularly good friends with two sisters who lived next door throughout my childhood and saw them warring and raging at each other, I didn’t envy that! My childhood home was peaceful and as I was only ‘one’ my parents made a concerted effort never to be angry with me at the same time so I always had one friendly face to find in our house.
My friendships have been made more durable as a result. My friendship group comprises of friends found in both primary and secondary schools and then throughout university, I am confident that I could confide in any of them my deepest darkest secrets, no less than I would a sibling, and perhaps even more. Boyfriends and partners have not even mentioned my single sibling status, I have no annoying younger sisters to embarrass them when they came to the family home, or no older brothers to give them the once over when they walked through the door. Only occasionally did I get called a spoilt only child, but then I think it’s due to envy from my peers than anything, my parents didn’t have the financial restraints of a larger family, although they were both retired by the time I finished school. And they have always given me their time and understanding willingly, trying to related to a teenager tearing in and out of their house and the trials and tribulations that came with my adolescence. Perhaps more so than other parents did their children.
I was admittedly, an indulged child. If I were to say spoilt my father would laugh and my mother disagree. But I know in truth I was, I was the centre of my parent’s world, the result of their life together and into me all their energies were channeled. That is true even today, but I idolize both of my parents despite the rows and disagreements that still occur. I would not replace them for the world, even though in younger spiteful moments I longed for a family the opposite of my own, with young parents and copious siblings. As I’ve got older I’ve realized that I wouldn’t want any other family life than I have known and you have to make the best of what you have unless you want to be constantly haunted by dissatisfaction. My mother would never stand for me to feel sorry for myself, and made me realize that if I didn’t enjoy my own company who else would?
One day my parent’s will not be with me, and I’ll miss being able to pick up the phone and ask my Dad something practical, a ‘how to’ question, or gossip with my Mum about what’s gone on (or wrong) with our day. And most of all I will have no one to ask about our family or what happened ‘when they were young’, so instead I ask them now, while they can tell me, and I appreciate their company and companionship everyday rather than wish for brothers and sisters and another life I’ve never known.
mother, grandparents and great-grandparents was as much of a gift as it was a curse and I fight the tendency to run back to the comfort of my "by myself "safe haven when the slightest issue upsets me. Most uncomfortable is the spector of having very little familial support as my mother and I age. When my father died, I was profoundly affecetd by the realization that one day I might be alone in the world as everyone that knew my intimate childhood history would be gone. That having been said, I don't regret being what is now called a singleton.
I am first and foremost a live-and-let-live person. I attribute this to never having formed hard and fast rules of social engagement (war) hard-wired into my brain by daily sibling interaction. I know like few others that people's personal traits are what makes them who they are as opposed to tools to use against them. It does not matter to me if one is different because everyone is different from me in a most basic way. So I take others as I find them judging not them personally but their behavior as acceptable or unacceptable for me to engage in and I leave it at that. Unlike many who I have seen destroyed by the inability to love from afar siblings who are cancerous, I know that I alone am ultimately responsible to care for myself so I have no problem or lingering guilt when I let go of a toxic relationship. While I had to learn to stand up for myself (no sibling battles over toys and such to teach me), I do not carry old wounds of self-doubt forged by thoughts that Mom liked my sibling best. My self esteem is intact. Having had uninterrupted time to consider the universe and my place in it, I can truly say I know who I am and what is important to me.
In terms of conflict management, I carry no lingering need from childhood to get what is due me because I had everything that I needed and a good bit of what I wanted as a child. Therefore, I can concede when need be without feeling like I am being duped, overlooked or taken advantage of once again. As I think many conflicts are actually old fights being fought over and over again, the fact that most of mine are new and colored by maturity means that "winning" an argument is not as important to me as getting to the root cause of the issue.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I am not afraid to be alone because I like me. While I do like interacting with others, I revel in and need the solitude of "me" time. I do not feel guilty when I take advantage of a rainy day to read a book or daydream.