The truth about being an only child

There are only a few things in life that make my blood boil. One. When a driver doesn’t say thank you when I let them through. Two. When someone tells me, “Trust me, you’re lucky you don’t have a brother or sister.”

I believe that whatever is meant to be is meant to be. I was meant to be an only child. It’s all I know. We can only make do with what we’ve got, and I’d like to think that I’ve made an okay okay attempt at things so far.

We can only play with the cards that we are dealt.

Who the fuck shuffled the deck?

I don’t know a great deal of people without siblings. Most of my friends have at least one sibling if not more. Whenever someone finds out that I’m an only child they tend to say either one of two things.

“You must be spoiled” comes in at number one whilst “I wish I was an only child” closely follows behind.

We aren’t spoiled brats

Okay, so the last time I checked, I was an only child, not a Kardashian. Thanks for being casually judgemental and insulting to me and my parents, jerk.

There is this preconceived notion that anyone that is an only child is spoiled rotten, and it bothers me. I couldn’t have had a better childhood, with my parents providing for every need and beyond, and for that I am incredibly grateful. But no, not everything was handed to me on a silver platter. The entire stereotype of only children as spoiled brats probably came from a dumb statement made by a leading psychologist once upon a time. It’s like that same news story that pops up twice a year telling us about how science has discovered that beer is actually good for us. Unless you’re a boring old fart that needs to loosen up a bit, beer ain’t good for you folks. And yeah, we ain’t spoiled.

As a kid I would wonder whether it would actually be true. I mean, maybe I got a few more christmas presents than some of my friends, but was I really a spoilt brat? I was too busy worrying about how to talk to the cute girl on the bus and why I had a much bigger penis than everybody else in the change rooms.

People who say we are spoiled don’t mean to be insulting. I get it, it’s just a knee jerk reaction to a common stereotype. I’m sure my white friends get pissed off when I tell them I made the chicken curry mild for them. But where are all these only children that are perpetuating this stereotype? Are there a bunch of Richie Rich type kids going around out there that I don’t know about? It’s funny that despite the sheer lack of evidence, people will assume that we are spoiled brats unless we demonstrate otherwise.

Pressure to succeed

I’ve never really felt pressured by my parents, something I’m very thankful for. Even if they’ve never come out and said that they wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor, as an only child, I cannot help but feel the pressure to accomplish everything.

People talk about the fact that we get all the attention, something that kids with siblings fight to the death for. I’m not gonna lie, it can be good. Being your parents one and only shining light can have its perks, but trust me, it’s not all farting rainbows. Being the centre of attention comes at a cost.

Don’t follow? Just imagine a family with three kids. Sibling can spread around some of the  responsibilities, reducing the reading on the pressure gauge. The first son can climb the food chain and land a high paying job, paying for the nursing home and can put all financial worries at ease. The daughter in the middle can marry young and pump out 3 grandchildren for the mum and dad to show off and play with. And the third in line can be an irredeemable screw up giving the family something to talk about every christmas and birthday.

My nature probably leans towards a hybrid between child number one and number three, minus the high paying job. With no brothers or sisters to pass on some of the expectations to, I cannot enjoy the stress free life of failing to live up to expectations. As an only child you feel that you must have a great career, get married, and look after your parents when they’re old, all in such a short time frame. It’s a little scary when you’re the be all and end all.

I know that rationally, it’s not as bad as I just put it. Most of us shoot for a balance between financial security and a happy family life.  My parents are understanding enough to know that the balance isn’t always achieved straight away. Whether I fail or succeed, they won’t be disappointed. Or if they are, they won’t tell me until they’re on their deathbeds. But without siblings to fall back on, it can sometimes feel like you’re trying to perform a flying forward one-and-a-half somersaults, pike, through a ring of fire. What if one day I’m late to pick my mum up and she misses her appointment, and because I don’t have any new photos of my cute nephew to fall back on, she explodes. I can guarantee you that every only child has had nightmares about this exact scenario.

Different in nature

We aren’t attention seekers. In fact we are quite the opposite. We’ve had it our whole lives that we honestly just want to be out of the limelight and go about our lives as we wish. I see so many people going above and beyond to seek approval and gain the attention of their parents. It’s a constant battle for some. I guess it’s really true that the grass is always greener. But seriously it’s not. Just be happy to go about life under the radar. You’ll probably be a lot more successful and happier in the long run.

One thing common amongst only children is the fact that we are quite independent. My parents left me home alone since I was about 9, and I never once burnt the house down making grilled cheese sandwiches. Aside from that, we tend to enjoy alone time. I know so many people who cannot deal with being alone. Either they don’t know how to stay occupied, or they clearly don’t like the thoughts that run through their head when they don’t have others around to distract them.

I’ve always spent a lot of time alone. Whether it is eating breakfast, running errands or watching sport, it’s quite often done alone, and I’m okay with that. In fact it’s pretty good at times. You learn how to become your own boss a lot earlier than other kids. Of course it has its down sides. There have been times growing up where I was lonely, or where I just needed a buffer. The amount of times I wished I had a brother to be there when times were tough, or when there were arguments at home. Those are the moments where you feel most isolated and helpless. But if anything, those moments made me a much stronger person, and taught me to fend for myself.

As much as I’ve always envied those with siblings, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s all I know and I’ve turned out okay so far despite my addiction to protein bars and alone time. Childhood was lonely at times, but I guess it’s pretty good that I don’t have a deadbeat brother coming to me for beer money every other day, or I don’t have to go to my sister’s ballet performance tomorrow. My parents have managed to give me a great life and they’ve set me up where I can do anything from being an Uber driver to joining ISIS. Whilst I sometimes ponder over what life might have been like with siblings, I don’t think nearly as many people speculate as to how life as an only child might be. Maybe this gave you some sort of insight. Maybe it didn’t. Oh well.

 

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