An ode to only children
Fighting back against the "spoiled brat" theory
“Oh, you must be spoiled.” It’s a sentence I have heard frequently throughout my life. To most people, disclosing you are an only child is the same as saying you are a brat. But I stand here today, in the wake of National Siblings Day — a day that always makes me feel particularly lonely — to stand up for only children everywhere and to say there is more to us than what many think.
Logistically, I acknowledge only children are given more attention and don’t have to split their resources with other siblings. Yet a person’s rearing is a lot more complicated than that. While it is very possible never having to share toys with siblings, never having to be teased and always being the sole focus of your parents’ attention could lead to the development of an unpleasant disposition, I reject the notion the inevitable result is a child with a “spoiled rotten” attitude.
I was always be — and still am — the baby of the family, even among my cousins. This forced me to mature more quickly, wanting to be included in family conversations or at least understand what was being said in them. I didn’t have any kids to run off and play hide-and-go-seek with during holidays. Because I was outnumbered, I watched TV and movies I either did not care about or didn’t understand. Even outside the family, I was constantly put in situations where I was the only person under the age of 40, and I learned to cope with it.
Since I had no siblings to fight with, I almost never got in trouble as a child. But when I did do something wrong, I would immediately feel so terrible I would just start crying and apologizing because I didn’t want to let my parents down. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up how I handle guilt even today.
I also attribute much of my failure in contact sports to the fact I never had siblings to fight with as a child. I just wasn’t assertive enough to hold my own — and I didn’t need to be. It served me well to have male neighbors to toughen me up a little bit — and foster my punk/tomboy Avril Lavigne stage.
Plus, being an only child has led me to value my friends all the more. They are the closest things to siblings I have, other than my dog (shout out to you, Skamper). They are the people I talk to, the people who I can joke about my parents with and the people I got to act my own age around as I grew up.
All these things are the products of my life as an only child, and I am sure different people have different things to say about how living with no siblings has shaped their lives. There is no magical formula which says only children will all turn out the same way. All the other only children I know are distinct individuals. We may be able to share some common stories and laughs about what it was like growing up, but in reality, much of who we are comes from our parents and the situations we were surrounded by as children.
I am extremely fortunate to have two wise, loving and selfless parents who taught me the importance of living your life for others and not taking your blessings for granted. Having such a small family allows me to be extremely close to them, and I am grateful for that. So thank you, Mom and Dad, for making me who I am today — even if it meant being forced to watch countless hours of golf as a six-year-old.
Kelly’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.