An Only with an Only; Tales from a Spoiled Only Child

 
It’s begun.​ ​​Our​ ​son​ ​is​ ​21 months​ ​old,​ ​and​ ​we’re​ ​getting​ ​the​ ​“So…is​ ​there​ ​talk​ ​of​ ​a second​ ​child?” question.​ ​​Already?!​​​ ​So​ ​soon?!​ I’ll​ ​admit,​ ​it’s​ ​caught​ ​me​ ​a​ ​little​ ​off​ ​guard.​ ​​​As an​ ​only​ ​child,​ ​it​ ​is foreign to​ ​me​ ​that​ ​people​ ​would​​ ​assume​ ​that​ ​I​​ ​need more children.​ ​​I usually​ ​resist​ ​mentioning​ ​to​ ​people​ ​that​ ​only​ ​children​ ​are​ ​wonderful,​ ​and​ ​they would​ ​be​ ​lucky​ ​to​ ​have​ ​an​ ​only​. 
 
​I​ ​know​ ​there​ ​are​ ​stereotypes​ ​out​ ​there​ ​-​ ​that​ ​whole​ ​“Spoiled​ ​Only​ ​Child”​ ​character​ ​that​ ​the media​ ​continues​ ​to​ ​propagate.​ ​​​So​ ​let’s​ ​just​ get​ ​into​ ​it;​ ​from​ ​myth​ ​to​ ​reality,​ ​what​ ​is​ ​it​ ​really​ ​like​ ​to be​ ​an​ ​only​ ​child?  
 
Myth:​ ​Only​ ​children​ ​have ​everything​ ​handed​ ​to​ ​them. 
Tale:​ ​During​ ​school,​ ​I​ ​got​ ​a​ ​box​ ​of​ ​Prismacolor​ ​colored​ ​pencils.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​confused​ ​when​ ​my peers​ ​opened​ ​their​ ​boxes​ ​and​ ​their​ ​pencils​ ​weren’t sharpened.​ ​I​ ​quickly​ ​learned​ ​that​ ​my​ ​dad, after​ ​buying​ ​these​ ​for​ ​me,​ ​had​ ​sharpened​ ​every​ ​single​ ​pencil​ ​in​ ​the​ ​box.​ ​​Yes,​ ​it​ ​was​ ​a​ ​box​ ​of 200​ ​colored​ ​pencils. ​​And​ ​yes,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​almost​ ​20​ ​years​ ​old at the time.
Reality:​ ​​ ​To​ ​me,​ ​this​ ​simple​ ​anecdote​ ​shows​ ​how​ ​much​ ​love​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​have​ ​for​ ​me.​ ​​I​ ​didn’t ​lift​ ​a​ ​finger​ ​and​ ​these​ ​pencils​ ​were​ ​at my​ ​door,​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​go.​ ​​​Yet I smile ​every​ ​time​ ​I​ ​think​ ​about it,​​ ​picturing​ ​my​ ​dad​ ​diligently​ ​sharpening all​ ​200 pencils​ ​in​ ​his​ ​office.​ ​​This​ ​unconditional,​ ​do-anything​ ​love​ ​gives​ ​me​ ​the​ ​confidence​ ​to know​ ​that​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​will​ always ​support and​ ​love​ ​me​. 
 
Myth:​ ​Only​ children​ ​can​ ​do​ ​whatever​ ​they​ ​want.
Tale:​ ​It​ ​was​ ​my​ ​7th​ ​birthday,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​a​ ​piñata​ ​party.​ ​​Rull​ ​bad.​​​ ​Something​ ​about​ ​raining candy​ ​from​ ​the​ ​sky​ ​seemed​ ​really​ ​appealing​ ​to me … yum.​ ​​So​ ​we​ ​go ​to​ ​the​ ​garage​ ​to take​ ​some​ ​whacks​ ​at​ ​the​ ​thing,​ ​and​ ​my​ ​mom​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​draw​ ​names​ ​to​ ​see​ ​who hits the​ ​piñata.​ ​​Fine.​ ​​​The​ ​problem?​ ​​She​ ​didn’t​ ​let​ ​the​ ​birthday​ ​girl​ ​get​ ​the​ ​ceremonial​ ​first swing!​ ​​​My​ ​name​ ​didn’t​ ​even​ ​get​ ​drawn​ ​before​ ​the piñata​ ​came​ ​crashing​ ​down,​ ​along​ ​with​ ​all​ ​of my​ ​7 year​ ​old​ ​hopes and dreams. 
Reality:​ ​Life​ ​is​ ​unfair!​ ​​Even​ ​at​ ​a​ ​young​ ​age,​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​instilled​ ​the​ ​reality​ ​that​ ​life​ ​isn’t​ ​all​ ​about me.​​​ ​I​ ​do​ ​still​ ​maintain​ ​that​ ​this​ ​lesson​ ​could’ve​ ​been​ ​taught​ ​at​ ​a​ ​better​ ​time​ ​and​ ​place. 
 

All my kids – in one teeny, tiny basket.

Myth:​ ​Only​ ​children​ ​are​ ​selfish.
Tale:​ ​My​ ​coworker​ ​and​ ​I​ ​were​ ​at​ ​a​ ​restaurant,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​ordered​ ​fried​ ​pickles​.​ ​​​I wasn’t​ ​that​ ​hungry,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​was​ ​famished​ ​for​ ​this appetizer.​​ ​Because​ ​fried​ ​pickles.​ ​​The​ ​question​ ​was asked,​ ​”Can​ ​I​ ​try​ ​one​ ​of​ ​those?” ​Every​ ​muscle​ ​in​ ​my​ ​face​ ​squirmed​ ​with​ ​anxiety and panic.​ ​​Not​ ​my​ ​fried​ ​pickles.​ ​​​There’s​ ​only​ ​like​ ​8​ ​in​ ​the​ ​basket.​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​maybe​ ​she​ ​wouldn’t notice​ ​my​ ​wrinkled​ ​mess​ ​of​ ​a​ ​face, but it​ ​was obvious.​ ​​​The​ ​awkwardness​ ​was​ ​palpable. I think I sputtered something like “Uhm … uh, well … it’s just that …” before she quickly cut me off.​ ​​She​ ​and​ ​I​ still ​laugh​ ​about​ ​my bumbling show of​ ​selfishness.  
Reality:​ ​Sometimes​ ​this​ ​myth​ is ​true.​​ ​I​ ​try​ ​really​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​think​ ​more​ ​about​ ​others,​ ​but​ ​when​ ​it comes​ ​to​ ​food,​ ​just … don’t.​ We​ ​are​ ​all​ ​human,​ ​and​ ​have​ ​issues​ ​to​ ​work​ ​through.​ ​​​Having​ ​a​ ​little one​ ​around​ ​has​ ​quickly​ ​turned​ ​my​ ​selfishness​ ​into​ ​selflessness.​ ​​​I​ ​do admit to​ ​snacking ​on​ ​the​ occasional cookie​ ​in​ ​solitude. 
 
Myth:​ ​Only​ ​children​ ​don’t know how to relate to other people.
Tale: ​My​ ​parents​ ​were​ ​schoolteachers,​ ​meaning that​ ​we​ ​had​ ​the​ ​summer​ ​to​ ​enjoy​ traveling​ ​to​ ​visit​ ​friends​ ​and​ ​family.​ ​​I​ ​was​ ​an only​ ​child​​ ​most​ ​of​ ​the​ ​year,​ ​except​ ​for​ ​the month-long​ ​trips​ ​when we would​ visit family.​ ​​Then​ ​it​ ​was​ a continual slumber​ ​party​ ​with​ ​my​ ​bestie​ ​cousins,​ ​playing​ ​“Girl​ ​Talk”​ ​and​ ​talking​ ​about​ ​boys​ ​all​ ​night.​ ​​What little​ ​girl​ ​wouldn’t​ ​love​ ​that?
Reality:​ ​Relationships​ ​are​ ​important.​ ​​My​ ​parents​ ​set​ ​a​ ​great​ ​example​ ​for​ ​developing​ ​strong relationships​ ​with​ ​family​ ​and​ ​friends.​ ​​In​ ​my opinion,​ ​that​ ​is​ ​really​ ​what​ ​this​ ​life​ ​is​ ​all​ ​about.​​​ ​I believe​ ​we​ ​are​ ​here​ ​to​ ​care​ ​for​ ​and​ ​love​ ​others​ ​with​ ​compassion​ ​and​ ​empathy.​​ ​I​ ​don’t believe that​ ​a​ ​sibling​ ​is​ ​a​ ​necessity​ ​to​ ​that​ ​equation. 
 
Will​ ​my​ ​son​ ​grow​ ​up​ ​to​ ​be​ ​an​ ​only​ ​child?​ ​​At​ ​this​ ​point,​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​sure.​ ​​Do​ ​I​ ​worry​ ​about​ ​it​ ​if​ ​he were​ ​to​ ​stay​ ​an​ ​only​ ​child?​ ​​Absolutely​ ​not.​ ​​I​ ​had an amazing childhood. I was fortunate to have family and friends who loved and supported me well.​​ ​Our son​ ​will​ grow to ​know​ ​he​ ​is​ ​loved​ ​unconditionally​ ​by​ ​his​ ​father​ ​and​ ​I, his many cousins, aunts, uncles and certainly his grandparents. And if he ever gets out of line, I’ll be sure his friends take the first swing at his piñata.

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5 Responses to An Only with an Only; Tales from a Spoiled Only Child

  1. Randi January 29, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

    As a happy only with an only who is 16 months old, I completely relate to this. Except I don’t shy away from telling people that ask about having more that statistically speaking, only children are happier and more successful than those with siblings so I am sure my son and I will both be fine! 😄
    I didn’t have many cousins nearby so my parents basically “adopted” whoever my best friend was at the time for sleepovers, vacations, etc. There are a lot of ways to teach an only child about relationships without more procreating more children!

  2. Katherine Potthoff January 30, 2017 at 8:38 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article! I am a twin myself and always wanted 2, but we struggled for years with infertility and were finally blessed with our one amazing miracle. There is a strong possibility she will be our only, and this made me feel really good about that.

  3. Jackie M January 30, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

    Love this! From a fellow only-child mom, who is probably one and done 🙂

  4. Kristen February 2, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

    I can TOTALLY relate to the food sharing! My husband’s family regularly checks with one another before ordering at restaurants to make sure no one is getting the same thing, and then they readily eat off each other’s plate. They still tease me about the first time I went out to eat with them and the look of sheer terror/disgust on my face when they asked to try my food. Now, with my 2 year old, I’ve managed to teach him what “spicy” means and then use that to my advantage– “No, honey, you can’t have Mommy’s ice cream; it’s too spicy!” #parentingwin

  5. Stephanie February 2, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

    I have 3 siblings…..after having my first I thought he would be my only child. Life was lovely. He was 4 when his surprise siblings came along (twin sisters). I would be 40 when all 3 were out of my house, well legally anyway. So it was still all good. Well, then when the twins were 5 I had the last surprise. He’s 3 now. As a mom of 4 who had an only child for 4 glorious years, I can tell you that there are pros and cons to both. My oldest has three siblings and is still selfish 😉 it has so much more to do with the values of the parents than how many children your child is forced to grow up with 😉 imo. The biggest reason I am thankful my kids have siblings is that when we are gone they will have one another and each others families as an extension of mom and dad. But I’m sure only children find that in other places too. Having recently lost my Dad the reality of not having parent forever is in the forefront of my mind….but in my own experience even having three siblings of my own we aren’t particularly close and tbh do not rely on one another in any significant way so I think my idea that my kids NEED siblings for when that inevitable day arrives is just another societal myth that we fall victim to. Either way 1 or 10 kids they will be just fine, happy and healthy. That’s all that really matters.