“Are you an only child?” Every time I’m asked this question there’s always a feeling of dread that I’ve exposed some negative trait about myself. In my early years, I probably did do something that was selfish or bratty. I was oblivious to how I was perceived, but thinking only of my comfort and convenience was all I ever knew. Through no fault of my own, I am an only child.
As I got older I learned how to interact in close relationships through my friends who looked passed the “only child syndrome” straight into the heart of who I was. These friends became the siblings I never had, my truest, most loyal confidants. We fought, we cried, we got over it, and moved on. I grew as a person because of these friendships.
It bothers me when people perceive only child-dom as a bad thing. Sure, we’re not used to sharing, and most of us are accustomed to getting what we want. But does our initial brattiness make us bad people? Absolutely not. In fact, there are some very positive traits of only children that are harder to find in people with siblings.
1. We are fiercely independent.
Why? Because we have to be. Outside of our parents spoiling us, we’ve had to figure out how to navigate through life with our own brains. We didn’t have older siblings to watch and mimic, we didn’t have any sibling to help us do anything. It’s just me, myself, and I. This made us into adults who can figure things out alone. It made us incredibly resourceful, which leads us to:
Being an only child may have been lonely growing up, but it made us much more creative in the long run. We learned to entertain ourselves with our imagination. We learned how to problem solve alone. And our likes and dislikes? There was no copying a brother or sister because that person didn’t exist. So the things we like and do are really all about our secure sense of self.
3. We are loyal friends.
What happens when an only child finds a person to develop a strong bond with? That friend has the ability to grow into a pseudo- sister or brother. Since we don’t have siblings, our friends become our family. We cherish these relationships, especially because they don’t exist at home.
Studies have repeatedly shown that only children spend more time around adults, developing faster cognitively and emotionally, since their sense of self is clearly defined and not in competition with siblings. Only children don’t have to “fit” into any family dynamic, and are therefore able to develop themselves more fully. We set the bar of achievement, no one else. What can be more empowering than that?
I can tell you, there are some people I know who grew up with siblings who are far worse for wear than I ever was. They become frantic when something goes wrong, they vie for attention to the point of desperation, and can’t seem to stand on their own two feet to save their life. From an only child’s point of view, that behavior is weird.
So the next time you come across an only child, don’t assume the worst. We learn how to share, we learn how to admit wrongdoings, we grow, and we cherish your friendship.