Only Child – Part Two

I’ll preface by saying that there are benefits and detriments to every family configuration. And there are way more factors at play in a person’s development than just birth order. It is an entirely personal decision, how many – if any – children to have, so please don’t breed – or not – on my account. (Like you would! I know!)

Things that I appreciated about being an only child, when I was a kid:

– no hand me downs
– no enforced sharing with bratty younger siblings
– my own bedroom! Decorated just the way I wanted!

Things I should have appreciated more, when I was a kid:

– my parents’ undivided attention
– the opportunity to travel (which is also due to my dad’s superior financial planning abilities – the man is cape-worthy)
– living in a stable home, in a stable neighbourhood, with the same friends, for the length of my school career (this, so that I didn’t have to keep making new friends over and over..although that skill probably would have served me well in the long run)

Things I appreciate now:

– my independence (which, I’ve learned over the years, is best tempered with a healthy bit of dependence)
– my creativity – some of which is inherited and a lot of which developed because I had to do something with my brain when my parents were occupied and all my friends were busy
– my reluctance – actually an inability, a lot of the time – to take sides in a dispute. On my resume, this reads “diplomatic and tactful.” No, this website is not on my resume.
– my sense of responsibility (though this is also best tempered)
– my love of solitude

Contrary to popular opinion about only children, I wasn’t lonely, or spoiled, or anti-social. I had lots of friends, in part because we lived in a neighbourhood with two elementary schools, and in part because my parents made an effort to have me have lots of friends. They both came from big families that were far away, so they had to find their community and make lots of friends here, too. And as for the spoiling, I say HA. Only child meets Superhero of Financial Planning Who Wants His Mortgage Paid off Before He Turns 45 = no new shoes unless you absolutely need them. I had knock-off Barbies just like the rest of you. (but a real “Midnight” the Barbie horse, bought for me by my aunt)

I like who I am. Being an only child is part of who I am. And it’s a good conversation starter. But I still wish I had a sibling. The kind you get along with, the kind you get together with every few years and laugh way too much.

I know there are no guarantees of that kind of relationship with a sibling. I have lots of cousins, many of whom are close to my heart. And I have lots of very good friends that I only see every few years (even the ones who live in the same city!) and laugh too much with.

The thing is: at the end of this line, the train stops. When my parents are gone, it’s just me. I am the only one who will remember Halloween, 1988, when the man who was renting our basement suite dressed up like Miss Piggy, total pig drag, and he was about 6’4″ in his heels and he scared the bejeepers out of the neighbourhood children.

OK, now you guys know about it, you’ll remember too, right?

Maybe that’s why I’ve been a compulsive documenter all my life. The journal has always been my sibling. (Which explains why I want to set it on fire all the time.) And why I’m driven to friendships that matter, that will last, even through hiatuses of 2, 4, 6 years.

Maybe if I’d had a sibling I would have become a marine biologist! Or an accountant! I think I would certainly be better at math. Whew. Close call, guys.


(me and my folks on a ferryboat, circa 1975)

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7 Responses to Only Child – Part Two

  1. mo-wo says:

    Well that’s a bit of a kicker, eh? — sheesh

    My Pa is an only and I’m a fan.. N. was going to be.. but HELLO! It is so interesting how reading and WRITING is important to how we construct self. It is relationships, yes ma’m

  2. Beth says:

    For me the best part of having two brothers is the shared memories. I can write them to check out memories. Did this really happen? What was the name of Uncle Fred’s wife? That kind of thing.
    Even though we shared the trauma of the death of our Mom, however, it was a very personal event, very different for each of us, and we never talk about it. That’s cause they’re men I think. I always wanted a sister.

  3. eva says:

    Although you don’t have siblings, getting together here and there and laughing way too much completely and accurately describes what it’s been like for me! Oh and IMHO second borns/last borns are waaayy more spoiled than only children. Just ask my sister. Or my second kid:)

  4. Ginger says:

    I so desperately wanted a sibling as a child. Brother, sister, I didn’t care, I just wanted SOMEONE else. When I was 16, my dad & stepmom had twins, but I barely count them as, well, I was 16, and they lived 2000 miles away from me. I loved some of the freedoms of being an only, and some of the benefits (I was a quiet child, and lets just say that if you’re quiet enough the adults don’t always notice that you’ve stayed up late while they have a party with their friends!), but I do wish for that someone else.
    Especially now that I’m older and I start to realize–as my parents age? It’s just me. For the memories, for the responsibilities and for all the rest.
    Wow, my comment got way heavier than I meant it to be!

    • cheesefairy says:

      Exactly.

      And I know what you mean – I started the post all lighthearted and then tra la la quirky doodle … death.

  5. Emma says:

    I’m an only child, too, and a lot of this resonated with me. I always used to hate the way people liked to assume that i was somehow ‘spoilt’ – I have no doubts that if my mother had been able to have more kids they would have all been treated with the love and attention I had.

    As I get older and my own and my parents’ mortality becomes something I think about more and more I’m learning to love them and chersih them as much as I can – which starts this week with me buying them a Skype webcam and microphone: I know this will be a steep learning curve for them but it will be well worth it!

  6. Megan says:

    I know a couple of only children, and they are lovely. Little adults, like you described yourself. So, I know Charlotte’s life isn’t over if we don’t have another kid. In fact, maybe she’ll get to go to Europe!

    But, honestly, I am terrified of not being able to have another kid. I have one younger sister, and she’s my best friend. I know, like you say, that being siblings isn’t a guarantee of being friends, but I think it’s worth a shot. I just want her to have what I have.