Hi, my name is Leslie, and I’m a 32-year-old only child. I’ve never understood sibling dynamics; I never had to share my room; whenever I got in trouble, I never had anyone else to blame. Growing up, there were times I wished I had a sibling but, for better or worse, being an only child shaped me into who I am today.
I am fiercely independent, but often need time to decompress after being in large crowds. I can easily entertain myself, but I sometimes lose an opportunity to build relationships with others in the process. I have a strong relationship with my parents, but often worry about how I will make hard decisions on my own as they age.
All of the above statements may be true for you whether you are an only child or not; however, if you are not an only child, then chances are you never experienced the jarring assumptions made by others regarding the only child status. As a child, I was incredibly sensitive to the fact that most people labeled me as “spoiled.” To this day, I dread the thought of my birthday approaching because I hated when kids made comments about how many presents I must have gotten just because I’m an only child. It made me feel unworthy and ashamed. As I grew older, I would ask my parents not to get me anything at all for fear of being ridiculed (sounds silly, I know).
It was also often assumed that I was a “brat.” Now, while I will certainly not claim to have been an angel, I don’t feel that labeling a child as a “brat” simply based upon their sibling status is fair either. Children have no idea how cruel their words can be until something hurtful is said to them. As an adult reflecting back upon my experiences in adolescence, I don’t necessarily think that my peers meant to inflict such deep wounds with those assumptions, but it happened anyway. I also don’t believe that they came to these conclusions about only children on their own. Kids usually repeat what they hear, whether it’s from their parents, peers, or other influencing factors.
Just like with everything else in life, it’s our job as parents to foster kindness within our kids. We have to remember that our words stick in their minds like glue and will often be repeated. I’m guilty of it sometimes too, but we have to be more mindful of the stereotypical assumptions we repeat in conversations because those little ears are always listening.