Relationship Series: The Life of an Only Child
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been asked the question, “What’s it like not having siblings?” And for as long as I can remember, my internal response has been, “How the hell would I know? I’ve never had one!”
Everyone generalizes only children as these spoiled, selfish, sensitive, dependent, don’t-know-how-to-share- type of people (and yes, I realize I just made a generalization about everyone within that very generalization…) And while we all have our flaws (because hello, we’re still humans after all), what I’ve learned about myself in relation to my identity as an only child is that I fall into the opposite of many of those generalizations.
Growing up, I was always having friends over or going on playdates at my friends’ houses. My parents did a great job of involving me in sports, Girl Scouts, and our neighborhood community; which I now realize was intentional given that I didn’t have that built in forced friendship thing that having a sibling apparently gives you. And though I thrived off of being a people person, one of my vivid memories of childhood is a recurring conversation with my mom about being maxed out of being an extrovert. Whether it was running back inside, or a phone call home, I would tell my mom I was kind of “done” and I wanted to go home or tell my friend they needed to be picked up.
The audacity of an 8-year-old, am I right? But what this funny childhood anecdote has taught me in my adult years is that I’m a person that balances tension really well. It has helped me to create and maintain lasting friendships that truly “get me,” and helped me set healthy and appropriate boundaries with people I love. I am an incredibly independent person who has “left the nest” many times (much to my parent’s sadness – sorry mom and dad) and also deeply values being with people. I have learned that I am often both-and, which has helped me to live my life with more integration and wholeness.
But there are some downsides to being a single child that a lot of people don’t realize. Now that I am in my adult years, I do wish I had a sibling that I could lean on during hard times that would understand more than a close friend. I’ve realized that my built-in support system is limited, which feeds into one of my biggest fears as an only child. Without siblings, I know that one day I will have to grieve the death of my parents in a way that no one quite understands (something I avoid thinking about). This understanding has increased my desire to pursue and maintain close friendships, knowing how important they will always be in my life.
So to answer everyone’s million dollar question – I don’t really know how my life would be different if I had siblings. What I do know is that I have two loving parents (going on year 28 of marriage! Rock on Dave and Jules), the heart of a loyalist to my best friends that have become extended family, and countless experiences that have allowed my path to cross with so many wonderful people. Okay fine, maybe I’m a bit spoiled but I’ll take it. It’s what makes me, me, after all.