What nobody tells you about… being an only child

What’s it like being an only child? The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle spills the beans… 

Lonely only?

Lonely only?

Irish people, traditionally, have always had large families. Growing up as an only child in the 90s, I was somewhat unusual. I was one of only two in my class. Probably around 95% of people I know now have at least one other sibling.

Most sibling-ed people, when faced with a sister who steals and ruins their clothes or a brother who beats them up ‘because it’s Tuesday’, have envied the life of an only. Only children don’t own toys riddled with the toddler’s teeth-marks. Only children don’t have to worry about getting their hair pulled on the way to the bathroom. Only children can rely on their parents to put their drawings on the fridge. Only children’s parents aren’t permanently frazzled by screaming babies or tempestuous teenagers.

The one way to annoy an only child is to call them spoilt. The amount of strangers down through the years who have thought it acceptable to say “You must be spoilt” to my face is staggering.

Some only children are spoilt. But then so are some families of three or four. We all remember the kids who got a Gameboy each at Christmas. Personally, there was never enough money in my family for me to be spoilt, and even if we had been better off, I doubt my mother would have got me everything I wanted. I wore hand-me-overs, rather than hand-me-downs, from neighbours and relatives. My schoolbooks were generally second-hand.

Another weird perception of only children is that we are incapable of sharing. I like to think I’m a generous person, and I have enough manners to offer people my sweets etc. Small children in general aren’t keen on sharing, and they have to be taught by adults to do so. Whether this happens in the home or school, it doesn’t make much difference. Remember how Joey in Friends “ DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!”? Didn’t he have seven sisters?

So would I trade it in for a sibling or two? There are quite a few positives in being an only. The first one is that you get used to your own company, which is very beneficial as you are the only real constant in your life. It makes you a bit more independent and self-sufficient, as you do have to rely on yourself a bit more as a kid. You also get to know your parents more at a young age, because you don’t have that many other people to talk to when you get home. This in turn helps you to relate to adults and older people.

I wonder if there were five other kids in my house would I have had developed such a love of reading. Reading and using my imagination were my hobbies as a child; although I had other children to play with, I often was on my own.

You may have deduced by now that being an only child is kind of lonely at times. Those with siblings have an automatic gang to pal around with, whereas onlys don’t have that luxury. While I know people who have quite negative relationships with their siblings, a lot more get on very well with them and have an automatic support structure in place when they need it. I especially envy those in two-child families, who are usually very close with their only sibling.

It can be tiring at times, being the sole focus of your parents’ attention. If you mess up, there is nowhere to hide; you can’t hope that your older brother will divert them by getting arrested. On the flipside, at least you don’t ever have to worry about dreaded middle-child syndrome. Your achievements will always be a source of pride to your parents, and won’t be overshadowed by or compared to someone else’s.

Finally, the major negative in being an only child will come in the future. Each family, even the smallest, has its own memories and lore. When an only’s parents pass away, a lot of that gets lost with them, as the only has no-one to really share it with. Siblings can fill in the gaps of memory for each other; only children can’t.

I don’t mind being an only child and I am glad of the positives, but I can’t say it is something I wish for my own offspring.

*Lead image via Twitter

What’s it like being an only child? The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle spills the beans… 

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