I don’t have any siblings. I’m an only child.
An only child is an oddity in a world where everything comes in pairs. Two is better than one. Noah took two of every kind of animal. Cakes and pizzas are always cut into 8 even slices, not seven. We even want our kids to come in pairs. So much so that twins are a prized possession.
When I tell people I’m an only child they give me the same sympathetic look you give someone who’s lost their dog. They grimace a little and say, “Oh, really?” with a tone that says, “I’m so sorry.”
Then they say, “You must have been SO spoiled!”
“No, not really. My parents knew that could happen. They went out of their way to make sure I wasn’t spoiled. Sometimes I think they said no just on principle. They never even took me to Disney World.”
Sometimes people say, “Oh, a Lonely Only.”
“No, not really. I had friends.”
I did. I had friends. I also had myself. As an only child I spent more time playing by myself than a kid with siblings, but I wasn’t alone. I created a vivid world of imaginary friends, talking dolls, palaces and princes. I owe my creativity to the imagination I cultivated years ago underneath blankets forts and between boxes in the attic.
Alone time also left time for introspection. I always knew who I was, even at a young age. I had misguided teenage moments like everyone else, but they didn’t last very long. I knew myself too well. I had to be true to myself, and I always returned to me. As an adult, strong convictions still guide me.
Sometimes I wanted the camaraderie and companionship of a sibling, but it didn’t last long. Especially when I saw my friends pulling hair and sparring over watching He-Man or The After School Special.
As an adult the lack of siblings makes my life less complicated. There is no discussion about who gets to host Thanksgiving. My kids get all of Grandma and Grandpa’s attention. No one will fight with me over who gets what piece and how much of our inheritance.
This isn’t a post to promote population control. I don’t think everyone should be an Only Child. I have two kids. I don’t care if you have four or ten. But I know there are some of you out there who have only one child, either by choice or because circumstances allowed you only one. And I know some of you are wondering if you’ve done some disservice to your child by not giving them a sibling.
You have not. That’s what I want you to know.
Your Only Child will grow up to be a well-adjusted, contributing member of society. They won’t be self-entitled brats. They won’t be unsocialized hermits.
Your Only Child will be just fine.
And when she’s 37, her Barbies will still have all their heads, because she didn’t have a big brother who popped them off just to be mean.
If you’d like to read more about only children I recommend this book, One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One