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.
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.