The loneliest number?
I was born an only child. My mom said when I was a kid, every once and a while I would ask for a baby brother and a basketball hoop…odd. While I may have asked for a brother periodically, I most certainly didn’t go through my entire childhood pining for a sibling. Sure, I remember being bored sometimes but quickly learned to entertain myself out of necessity and was able to relate to adults pretty well from a young age. Being alone was my reality and I never really questioned it too much. Never did I feel like I was missing anything since I never knew otherwise.
We “Only Children” are a rare breed indeed. I’d venture to guess out of the 500 people I probably know, only about 25 of them are Only Children. Whenever I happen to meet one, there is an instant serendipitous connection. We Only Children always seem to discuss the same 2 things the upon learning of our commonality: 1) We joke that our parents stopped at just one because we were a handful 2) We inevitably mention the rarity of our breed.
Only Children conjure up all sorts of preconceived notions of loneliness and spoiled brattiness. I firmly believe spoiling happens as a result of parenting, not as a result of single status. I have known plenty of spoiled kids, most with siblings and a few without (and only a few because there just aren’t that many of us by comparison).
My parents are the most responsible people you will ever meet. Seriously. They both pride themselves on principle and character. As such, they were determined, even hell-bent on not raising a spoiled child.
Key phrases I remember from my childhood:
“Just because we can spoil you, doesn’t mean we should”
“Kids don’t get a vote” (I still secretly believe I did, they just didn’t want me knowing it)
Not only was I not spoiled, at times I was spoiled less than my sibling friends who were pretty much convinced I’d hit the kid lottery. My sibling friends daydreamed of never having to share their toys and soaking up all their parents’ love and devotion all by themselves, how lucky it must have been to be me. The truth is, it was lucky to be me, but not because I was an “Only”. It was lucky to be me because I had great parents, and so did they.
For all you Mommy Friends out there with an Only Child, I celebrate you because I know few others will.
When my eldest was born, I was perfectly happy to raise an Only Child. Despite my contentment, it felt as if no one, other than my own parents, could understand my choice. People everywhere warned me of the dangers of spoiling my Only Child and how he would inevitably grow up lonely. Some brazen folks actually called my choice mean! Mean, really? I would calmly mention that I was an Only Child, only to get a sympathetic, disapproving nod. I knew my kid; I knew what Only Child life was all about and I wasn’t worried, just annoyed.
In time my heart grew to want another child. Giving my eldest a sibling obviously changed and enhanced his life in a million wonderful ways but had the decision never been made, he’d be no worse for the wear. I’ll admit it gives me comfort knowing that no matter what happens to me or my husband, my boys will always have each other. They will have a living record of their own childhood to refer to and that seems simply magical to me.
As an adult, I see the incredible relationships my friends have developed with their siblings. These same friends, who once thought I hit the kid lottery, have grown to appreciate their brothers and sisters. They value the history they share and gain tremendous support from them. But before you shed a tear for this Only, just know we have that special bond too. We fill that “void” (if you even want to call it that) with friends, great friends. Friends who are more than just friends to an Only; they are family. The best part is, these friends don’t necessarily know you wet your bed until you were 12.
Mommy Friends, have 1 kid, have 5 kids, have whatever completes your heart and your family.