Due largely to the rising costs of raising children, single child families are on the rise in America and other developed nations, with some 18% of families in the U.S. having only one child, a figure which has doubled in the last 30 years. This means that more children in this generation will experience the joys and challenges of being raised in what comedian John Hodgman affectionately calls the “super-smart, ultra-shy narcissist club.” As an only child myself, here are 30 things that I know to be true about growing up solo.
We have heard it all before, only children are spoiled rotten little brats… well, guess what, so are a lot of you “normal” people, and you don’t hear us complaining about it all the time. Not all of us are completely self-obsessed.
We didn’t grow up with a sibling to torment or to be tormented by and are therefore naturally averse to peer conflict.
Without the existence of a built-in familial playmate, we had to find other ways to occupy our time and add some people, albeit imaginary, into the cast of characters in our lives.
In much the same way that a visit to the country is an exciting and novel adventure for a city dweller, observing the dynamics and inner-workings of a large family is enjoyable for only children.
We treat our friends like the brothers and sisters that we never had. We are not satisfied with casual acquaintances, we want the talk-for-hours-on-the-phone-every-day type of buddy.
Have you ever seen someone eating at a restaurant or going to a movie by themselves. Guess what, they are probably having a great time, ordering or watching whatever they want. Only children are completely comfortable being alone.
Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was invite a bunch of people over my house and then hang out by myself in another room, reading or writing. While this may seem like extremely anti-social behavior, I simply enjoyed having people in the background that I didn’t need to directly interact with.
As the majority of our interactions outside of school are with adults, we tend to be a little more mature than our peers and, as such, we act older than our age.
Every only child eventually gets “the talk” where our parents explain to us why they didn’t provide us with a sibling. In my case, I was a late in life, accidental birth. The whole conversation feels like an apology. It’s awkward.
In fact, our imaginary friends had imaginary friends. We crafted elaborate narrative exchanges with these figments of our overactive imaginations and had a great time doing it.
We didn’t grow up being constantly touched and, as such, we tend to be a little more reserved with our public displays of affection.
We do not have fond memories of our siblings growing up alongside us, so we are not inherently drawn to recreating those times.
We didn’t grow up being ribbed and constantly picked on. We never built up the emotional callouses needed to live in such a cruel world, so we are often a little sensitive.
…but we often wonder what it would be like to get into a real fist fight.
Telling people that you are an only child is like saying you were raised in a cult, you get a range of looks in response, that span the gap from mildly surprised to outright disgusted.
Our things are our things and our food is our food. We didn’t grow up having to share and are therefore not very good at it.
Three of my closest friends are also only children. It’s a little like a private club.
Regarding those three close friends, I feel very strongly that they are all much more stereotypical “only children” than I am.
Without the distractions that siblings provide, we tend to get deep into our hobbies.
This carries on well into adulthood. We feel a deep need to make our parents proud, mostly because we were our parent’s sole concern for the entirety of our formative years.
We grow up never having to fight for attention, in fact, we probably received a little too much of it over the years. We are used to being the focal point in social interactions and that is not an easy thing to give up.
And sometimes the conversations are pretty engaging.
It’s not their fault, we are all they have, so it is only natural that they would become a little controlling.
Unless we marry into such a situation, we will never have a little niece or nephew to spoil.
Only children sometimes have difficulty operating as part of a team because they did not engage in the same type of group play that other kids did.
We lack a secondary record of our childhood. We have no one to ask if the exaggerated version of events that exist in our heads actually happened.
Mine was a globetrotting college-aged sister with red hair and a fancy car… I genuinely have no idea why.
We often lack the overwhelming desire, that so many have, to turn mundane events into opportunities for competition. Don’t get me wrong, we like to win just like anyone else, we just typically prefer non-competitive activities.
Children are extremely expensive, in fact, it has been estimated that the total cost of raising a child often exceeds $250,000 by the time they reach 18.
So stop bringing it up all the time! We’re sensitive about it.
Featured photo credit: boy in mumbai slums / pushkar raj sharma via flic.kr
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