Only children sometimes get a bad rap. As an only child myself, I know a thing or two about this. For most of my life, I was the only, only child on either my mom or dad’s side of the family. The only other Only I knew of was my great-grandmother Ida, who, by the way, gave birth to 16 children. Uh, yeah… that’s not happening.
This childhood status did not win me many points among my first cousins, who undoubtedly loved me, but also took advantage of one of the more notorious traits of only children – extreme sensitivity. (I cried at the drop of a dime.) Now a mother to an only child (who has begun to express the desire for a sibling), I’m on the lookout for only child stereotyping.
To that end, I thought I would take a moment to put some of the more negative stereotypes to rest (you know, for my daughter’s sake, not mine.)
I can’t tell you how many times I had this accusation hurled at me as a kid, and even as a young adult. Picture this: I’m in my twenties, on a first date with a guy and he asks if I have any brothers or sisters. I say “No.” He says, “Oh, well I know you must be / must have been spoiled.” (Ok, so at this stage in my life, my witty comebacks had already crystallized.) So I say, “Yeah, well that’s true. So, pony up buddy. This is about to be one expensive date!”
Ok, seriously, I’ve often wondered why the only children have to carry the burden of the unfortunate “spoiled brat” misnomer. I mean, come on who does the actual spoiling? It’s the parents, right? So why punish those who are merely the defenseless recipients of all their parents’ time, attention and disposable income?
Ok, so this one is clearly linked to the idea that only children often get their way, and with no competition from a sibling, they tend to run the show. And yes, some can be bossy. But let’s look at another way: they’re usually primed to be leaders with a healthy dose of self-esteem. And some of that “bossiness” might be attributed to spending lots of time around adults. In fact, that’s another only child designation – that they often act like “little adults.” Truth: I did sort of ban the baby talk with Gabby, but I think she’s turned out to be a well-spoken 8 going on 38 year-old.
POOR SOCIAL SKILLS
I have to admit that I get where this one comes from. Only children usually spend a lot of time by themselves, but in most cases they’re not excommunicated from the rest of society. My daughter, like me, is very good at entertaining herself. But she also happens to be a bit of an extrovert, so making friends is usually no problem for her. Perhaps it takes a while for my fellow Introverted Only children to warm up to people, but I don’t think only children are inherently socially inept. They just need to be… well, around other kids. And I found at least one study that says a lack of siblings has no real impact on social skills during the teenage years. I do, however, think it’s important to stress to an only child the importance of sharing from an early age.
I’ve already owned up to this one, and God bless my baby girl because she’s just about as sensitive as they come. But you know what else? She is also the most compassionate child I’ve ever seen. (In fact, she articulates her feelings so well, there’s a good chance she may not even need therapy when she grows up!) Granted, that compassion isn’t solely the result of being an only child, but I think she’s more aware of other people’s feelings because she’s so in tuned to her own. And it’s my job as her mom to help her deal with hurt feelings and disappointment without having a full-fledged meltdown.
So, I hope I’ve helped to dispel some of the myths about only children or at least offer some alternatives from the guy who once described being an only child as a “disease in itself.” But you know, I don’t have any unresolved issues about that or anything…
Do you have any “Only” myths to add to my list? Let me know in the comments.
Taralyn Caudle is a freelance writer and Huntsville native who returned to her hometown to raise her beautiful and energetic daughter, Gabby. When she’s not nurturing the talents of her budding artist, she can be found on the hunt for good food, good music, or a good deal on a pair of shoes. Practically possessed by politics, purple, and Prince, she loves alliteration (obviously) and has been known to quote music lyrics in everyday conversation, from Hall & Oates to
Kanye West Kendrick Lamar. Her current philosophy on life: a little bit of sarcasm and a whole lot of laughter never hurt anybody.