Ever wonder what it’s like to be an only child? Well here’s your chance to find out! I’m an only child, and I’m going to tell you my story.
My parents had me when they were 28 (mom) and 30 (dad). They were parents later in their lives. They were married 8 years before they had me. At that time, it wasn’t too common for women to give birth going into their 30s, so I was the stopping point.
I do have an odd family. Who doesn’t. My father is an only child and my mother is an only child with a sibling. She has a brother that is about 9 years older than her. In that scenario, she was raised as an only child because of the large age gap.
My childhood was lonely. My parents were and still are to this day workaholics. I spent a lot of time with babysitters and at daycare centers after school. During the school year, I typically only saw my parents in the morning. I would be in bed “sleeping” by the time they got home. Summertime was not fun either. My parents started leaving me home alone when I was 10 years old. Summer vacations were usually about 10 weeks long and that seemed like a lifetime when you’re a kid with nothing to do and you can’t leave your house. I got used to spending a lot of time alone. To this day, Pete always tells me that I have problems being alone. He never understands that I’ve been alone for such a long time that I don’t want to be alone anymore. It’s nice having people around.
We lived in a townhouse development filled with mostly older couples or new families with small children. There were only three of us so we didn’t need much space. There weren’t a lot of kids my own age in my neighborhood—mostly retirees and yuppie couples just starting their lives, with maybe one young child in the family. Since there was no one around to play with I became very close to my mother as I grew up. My mother never had a lot of adult friends of her own. She had one close friend until I was about 12. We would go over to her friend’s house and swim in their family’s pool on the weekends in the summer. There was a rift in their relationship due to a job promotion at the office they both worked at and they never really spoke again. Since I didn’t have any friends growing up and neither did she, we became really close.
Having a close relationship with a parent is great, but it becomes a dangerous one when it crosses the line from mother and child into best friends. It’s hard to be best friends with your parent when you are a child. To this day, my mother does not see me as an adult. We had a great relationship when I was a child and even through the the teenage years which, should’ve been rocky. It wasn’t until I turned 23 and got my first boyfriend that things took a turn for the worse. That’s when I had my first teenage rebellion. I had it about 10 years too late. From then on, my mother and I have been in a soccer ball kind of relationship—kicked around back and forth—sometimes good and sometimes bad.
Because I got used to spending my time in the company of older people, I’ve found that a lot of my current friends aren’t my own age. Most of them are 10 years plus older than me. For instance, my running buddy is 10 years older than me and my fiance is 11 years older than me. It’s easier for me to relate to people older than me because I grew up that way.
A lot of the cliches about only children would definitely apply to me as well: I have a very hard time sharing things, I usually want my own way, I was very spoiled growing up, I’m painfully shy, and I have a hard time socializing with people I don’t know. Some of these traits I’ve carried over into adulthood. Even though they have lessened a bit, they are still there. I’m not quite as shy as I used to be. If I want something, I’ll ask for it—not the case as a kid. I do like things my way. If things aren’t going quite the way I like, then I’ll go off and do my own thing. Am I spoiled? Not really anymore, but if I had my way I probably would be!
When you’re the only one everything is focused on you. Every decision you make is noticed and judged. Parents often project on their children the things that they never accomplished growing up. They say that they want you to live a better life than they lived and that they want things to be easier. The problem is that everyone defines their life differently.
I can’t go back and change the past, but I can make decisions going forward. If I ever decide to have children, I will have two that are relatively close in age. I wouldn’t want my child to go through the loneliness that I had to go through. I think the benefits to having a sibling far outweigh the benefits to being an only child. Having a sibling is a bond that, while it may not be so strong in childhood, has a lot of benefits in adulthood. The main one is not being alone.
The only really is the lonely. And two really is better than one.