Thursday, September 25, 2014

Only Child = Lonely Child?

The Headlines:

Have an only child?


No worries.

I'm an Only Child.

It's really not that bad.




When I meet parents these days who have only children, though still fairly rare (according to the U.S Census, in 2010, it's about 20% of all kids), they always ask me: "How was it?" I see the concern in their eyes.  They wonder if their child will grow up isolated or antisocial or worse yet, both!  I always assure them, they will be fine.  Just look at me!  In that same breath I give them a little run down of what to expect: they will be independent, dependable, talkative… yep, there are certain things that only children will, inevitably have in common, to a degree.  What lies ahead is the down and dirty info on life as an only.

Wait, was my best friend a bear statue? 


As a little girl I always wanted a sister.  Wouldn't that be great?  A constant friend to be by your side forever.  Unfortunately, I never got one.  I never got a brother either.  I just had me.  My Mom and Dad had a plan, so they said, to have one child and adopt the other sex.   But my Mom later told me that they were having way to much fun raising me and just kind of forgot.  I personally think my Mom would have gone insane with a second child.  But in any case, the fact remained it was me alone.

So began my long road as an only… it's a windy, long, exciting trip.  Let's preview the ride.

First things first, Which Only Are You?
To this day, when I come across an only I instantly bond with them.  I know what they went through, I went through it too.  But if you have any extended interaction with an only child you will first realize there are different classifications of them.  3 "types" if you will… due directly to the way they were raised.  Inevitably an only child will be spoiled - but the question is how?


love
things
or 
both

Only children who are spoiled with things are obvious.  They get what they want, when they want it.  They get stuff.  Lots of it.  They grow up never wanting and perhaps never giving much.  Their lives are very self serving.  It's clear why.  Now, the only spoiled with love gets mostly attention.  They constantly have a type of spotlight shined on them.  The parents think their child can almost walk on water.   They grow up believing in themselves and feeling very valued.  They yearn to be taken care of but will take care of their person or people right back.  This is the only child who sometimes will not, obviously, appear as an only.  Finally, the third and most potentially disastrous of the bunch is the only child who is spoiled with both things and love.  These onlies truly grow up thinking the world completely revolves around them.  Because, it does.  When they find out it doesn't, they can break.  It is devastating because their parents made them think the sun rose and set on them and when they find out otherwise, it's earth shattering because now they have to completely realign the way the world truly works.

**Keep in mind, this "disaster" only happens when the love and things are in complete excess.  True overkill.  Otherwise, both - in small and distinct doses - can be a kind of magical combination.  A true golden child.

Now, if you know me, you are very aware that I was spoiled with love.  My parents didn't have a lot of money but they gave me lots of undivided attention.  Many of my friends were surprised by how much focus I received.  Their parents were always much more self involved.  My parents, always put my games, my friends and my life first.  Perhaps a bit too much for their own good but it is what they did.  Which leads me to my first reason...
Being an Only Child Rocks:

Reason #1
It's All About Love (and Confidence).
An only child knows they deserve to be loved because they got it so much growing up.  In turn, often times they can also be love-able.  I remember when I liked a boy in high school and he wasn't necessarily returning the "love" whole heartedly, I was stunned.  Plus, annoyed.  Ultimately, I knew I could never actually be with a man long term who didn't adore me.  I was used to being adored by my father.  I believe that helped me pick a healthy, good relationship with my eventual husband.  Isn't that the goal?  To be adored by the one you marry?  An only child will be.

Also, and this could be a whole separate reason if I wanted it to be… but being an only child will give him or her self confidence.  Because they had the full attention of their parents constantly.  They don't have to share or compete for it.  This makes them feel worthy and deserving which feeds their inner ego and they will carry that with them forever.  In a good way.


Reason #2
Great Social Skills.
Onlies can talk to anyone.  As an only child, you go where your parents go.  All the time.  You, therefore, interact with your parents and their friends.  A lot.  It makes the only mature faster and talk better than other children.  That person gets more practice.  The skill stays with them forever and comes in handy when meeting new people for the rest of their lives.  Plus, it never hurts in business either.  Usually, only children get along with anyone.

Reason #3
Incredible Friend Network.
An only child does not have brothers or sisters to rely on so they must develop a good bunch of friends.  Friends are the family they choose and they mean a lot to them.  I had a friend as a young girl who had mass amounts of siblings at home.  I loved her.  We looked alike.  In my mind, she was the sister I never had.  Being friends with her was mega important to me.  Not so much for her.  With her at-home "friend" network - she didn't need me the way I needed her.  We remain friends to this day.  In fact, I have a lot of friends.  I was in lots of weddings in my 20's.  I always tried and still try to develop them wherever I go.  Today, we have a big party Christmas Eve where we invite bunches of friends… because family - we have not.

On the flip side, your only child will be completely comfortable without any friends.  They grow up super independent so they don't feel the need to always be surrounded by friends.  For some, being alone is difficult and taboo.  Not for the only.  There can actually be some comfort in it.

Reason#4
High Achiever.  Sometimes Over achiever.
Only children want to please.  They are their parents only hope.  For me, disappointing my parents was not an option.  If I did, in my mind at least, their whole lives were for nothing since they put so much into me.  If I became a loser… what a waste of time those 18 years were.  No.  I needed to show them.  I had to do well, not at every single thing, but at enough things.  That continues to this day by the way…  I realized that at one point several years ago when my parents were out of the country, I had good news, but I couldn't reach them.  I kinda felt like, telling them, made the news real.  Not telling them, made me disinterested in the news all together.

My friends mom was an only child.  Let, me tell you, that woman has been on fire for a long time.  First she was a super mom, birthing like 6 kids.  Then she was a Real Estate tycoon - writing books and speaking all over the country.  Now, at around age 70, she's an actress.  Seriously.  Like moving-to- Columbia-to-star-in-some-new-Netflix-drug-series or something like that actress.  I would call her a definite over-achiever.  And I know where it came from.  Or at least where it started - being an only child.  Therefore, only children can be leads in plays, captains of the football teams, presidents of clubs,  super academics.  They will do what it takes to stand out somewhere.  If for nothing else but to make mom and dad proud.

Reason #5
Ultimately, You Get What You Want.
It has to be said. Probably the least popular but also most truthful reason Being an Only Child Rocks. While I was not spoiled with money - I undoubtedly got more than I would have if there was a sibling.  I was able to join the cheerleading squad when I made it at 14.  My parents bought me a car when I as 16.  I went to a private University when I was 17.  Those things cost money.  Quite a bit of money.  My parents sacrificed what they needed to, to make sure I got those things.  If I would have had sisters or brothers… all of those things would have been impossible.  It just could not have happened.  Because I was an only, it did.

So now the downside.  It's simple.

Reason #1
You're an Only Child
Pretty straight forward, huh?  You may have all of those things above but you don't have a brother or a sister.  In some cases, not all, but for some people a brother or sister can be the most rewarding relationship you will ever have in your life.  One that I will never get the chance to experience.  Those are the people who you will be with you through everything.  They will protect you in elementary school, stand by your side at your wedding, spend time with you on the holidays, argue with you over your parents elderly care and eventually talk to you on the phone when no one else will because you can barely hear.  How special is that?


This is what I know.
Not what I studied.  Not what I read.  It is not the outcome of a sociological experiment.  Nor the notions of a psychological genius.  I am just me.  I had the experience and I was a student of life as it was dealt to me.  I will not say that your child, or you, will inevitably and completely fall into one of the above categories.  Every person, every only, every situation is different.  But I will say, I believe, there is a good chance the above rings true to most.  It's not bad or good… it just is.

So there it is… all laid out.  Though I was somewhat distraught by the loneliness of being an only… and am still reminded of it from time to time today. It also taught me so much.  It made me lighter.  It forced me to shine brighter.  I am who I am because I was an only.  I'm convinced if I had siblings I would be a fairly, not completely, but fairly different person than I am today.  I like who I am.  And you will love who you or your child grows to be.  I… only... promise.