Why only children are awesome

Original photo by Flickr user Me'nthedogs, used by Creative Commons license
I am a third generation only child, and my son will be a fourth generation only child. I am not just pro-only children — I've even jokingly referred to myself as an "only child bigot," prone to espousing how only children are a master race of superior humans. Really, I'm only half kidding, because I think singletons are AWESOME. (In part because we're so confident!)

Of course there are logistical reasons for only having one child (concern about world over-population, financial constraints, fertility issues, etc) but these assume you're making some sort of a sacrifice. For me, I see only having one child not as a limitation — but as a solid dose of pure WIN.

Obviously every family is different and every only child's experience is unique (SO unique. La la la! I'm a special snowflake!). But here's my anecdotal take on why I loved being an only child and why I'm excited to raise an only child:

Only children are precocious

Since only children don't have other kids around as frequently, speaking to adults like an adult is just how things get communicated around the house. I called my parents by their first names until I was in pre-school, when my grandmother told my father that it was simply too weird to hear a three-year-old ask her father, "David, can I have more yogurt?"

I certainly don't think parents of siblings baby-talk more than parents of onlies — it's just a matter of numbers: when the majority of conversations in the house are conversations between adults and one child, onlies have no choice but to keep up with adult conversation. As a result, most onlies I've known have always had keen communication skills and been highly verbal.

As one adult only child explained, "being an only child prepares you for adulthood because when you're the only child, your parents treat you like a little adult pretty much as soon as they can. My parents would take me to adult events, where I would be the only child, and expect me to behave and mingle with adults." Of course, this experience can be frustrating for a child — but if your parents are cool people who mingle with other interesting adults, it's awesome. (Because did I mention being an only child is awesome?!)

Existential comfort with being alone + imagination bonus!

The reality is that only children DO spend a fair amount of time alone. For me at least, this forced me to develop a rich imagination and overall comfort with alone time. This familiarity with alone-ness has been a major life skill in my adulthood. Because let's face it: as adults, we ALL spend a fair amount of time alone. Knowing how to be comfortable with that is critical life skill that only children get a head start on.

I spent much of my alone time as a child working on a richly imaginative internal narrative. Was I lonely? Sure, but the result was that vast expanses of my childhood were spent up in my head, composing stories and entertaining myself. Coincidence that I became a writer? Who knows!

"I think most only children learn how to be creative or imaginative at an early age," an adult only child told me. "Unless there are friends close by, most of the time it takes a parent arranging a play date to get what some siblings have built right in. I can remember going into my room for hours on end and just inventing games and entertaining myself as opposed to relying on playing with friends all the time."

Being the center of the universe feels awesome

While I wasn't spoiled with material stuff as an only child, I would never deny that I was spoiled with attention. And you know what? IT FELT FUCKING AWESOME. As one adult only child told me, "I didn't really notice it until later in childhood, but let's face it: I got all the attention and I loved it. Good or bad, there was no one to have to live up to or follow behind, and all lessons and experiences were catered to me. I always knew where I stood and that I had the sole attention of my parents."


Now, I'm not stupid. While being an only child is AWESOME, of course there are significant challenges on the parenting side. Here are few that I'm mostly keenly aware of, based on my experience as an only:

Socialization is very serious business

When there aren't siblings, it's up to you as parents to prioritize your kid getting as much social stimulation as they need. I grew up an only child on 10 acres of forest on a dirt road with no neighbor kids, but have always been a pretty social creature. My parents tried to keep me engaged with our community (they co-founded a Universalist Sunday school, sent me to art classes, etc) but truth be told, they were more interested in getting OFF the grid than keeping me plugged into it.

I spent 4th and 5th grade at a tiny private school with only 10 other students — getting even more isolated. My report card for 5th grade says, "Socially, this was a difficult year for Ariel. Although she could recognize the social needs of her peers, it was difficult for her to respond to them." This is like taking your dog to the dog park, and your dog hiding under a bush and peeing itself.

I feel like I dodged a bullet when, a week before my mom and I were going to start homeschooling me for 6th grade (Homeschooling an only child in the woods = the opposite of socialization!), I decided that I wanted to mainstream with the other kids. The transition to a 650-student middle school was brutal trial-by-fire socialization, but it was desperately needed.

One adult only child friend of mine was sent to "Miss Covington's Dance School" for dance and etiquette lessons in fourth grade. While the idea sounds ridiculously old fashioned, I absolutely see the value for an only child.

Parents of onlies have to get their kid to the dog park. Er. You know what I mean.

You will pay for other people's kids to come on your family vacations

Growing up, I thought that EVERYONE got to bring a friend with them on family camp-outs and vacations. It wasn't until just recently that I realized that most family vacations are with, well, FAMILIES.

But as the parent of an only child, I can already see the advantages of having another kid with us on vacations. It's more fun for them to have someone to play with and would be less work for us to entertain him. As an added bonus, the parents of the friend get a little break, ta boot! Sure, it costs money to pay for another person's child to come along, but I think it's worth it. The worst family vacation I had with my parents was the one where we didn't bring a friend for me. We went to Puerto Vallarta when I was 12 and I spent the whole trip bored and whining at my parents, who spent the whole trip irritated and trying to entertain me. The vacation culminated in my fingernail getting bitten off by a parrot.

Moral of the story: bring a friend on family vacations.

You will have to teach your kid about sharing objects and space

Every child needs to learn about boundaries and generosity, but the issues become even more urgent with only children. Andreas, who has step-brother and a half-sister, is always laughing at my ongoing issues with sharing.

"What!" I sputter. "I'm very generous! I give things away constantly!"

"Giving is different from sharing," he says, shaking his head. "You can't handle sharing."

And it's true. I'll take you out for a nice dinner (my treat! have a third glass of wine!), but stab your hand with a fork if you try to sneak a taste of something on my plate.

Sharing space is another biggie. Only children get accustomed to having things just so, and this particularity with their personal space can develop into an acute sensitivity. I haven't always been the easiest roommate. And honestly? Sharing is a lesson I continue to learn into adulthood.


So, are you convinced yet? Do you believe me that only children are awesome? I pride myself on being convincing on this issue. After all, I managed to convince my parents of this when at 7 years old, when I heard them contemplating having a second child. I took myself to the library, did a little research, found a book, checked it out, and brought it home.

What was it you might ask? Raising the Only Child by Murray Kappelman.

  1. I was an only child for 12 years. My parents had my brother when I was 12, and another brother when I was 16. I moved out of their house when I was 20, and as a teenager, well, I wasn't exactly at home with the kids all that often, and when I was, well, they don't really remember too much of that since they were so young. I had the pleasure of being an onlie and loved it! As a family, we got to do the things other families can't always do due to the financial burden of taking multiple kids on outings, vacations, signing them up for little league sports, etc. My life was filled with goodness. Not to say it wasn't so when my brothers came along, just, well, I got awesome attention. As you mentioned, Onlies are expected to act, speak, think, engage like little adults. This was a huge benefit as I grew up and still works to my advantage. So, while I too could go on and on about how awesome it was to be an onlie, I'll just say "I second that!" and move on. Thanks for the good read!

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  2. I am the youngest of 3 girls but my little girl will be an only child. This really made me feel alot better about my decision. So thank you.

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  3. Thank you!

    Seriously, again, thank you.

    Since we had only child-ness kind of foisted on us (a genetic platelet condition will do that to you!) I have been SUPER concerned about Jasper. I've known many a kick-ass only child, but I'm still paranoid about MY baby being an only child. I've always heard that most onlies really adore it, so I'm pumped.

    Thank you thank you thank you. I'm making Sean read this ASAP. And maybe buying Jasper that book. 😉

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  4. As an only child I want to say, amen sister! I'm still working on socialization (I feel like an anthropologist sometimes) and sharing (ask my husband about leftovers) but I'm definitely a lot more independent and self-contained than other people because I learned to entertain myself.

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    • "I feel like an anthropologist sometimes" What a great way to put this.

      I was an only child until I was 11, and I'm very much this way. Generous? AbsoFREAKINloutely. Okay with you being in my space or touching my stuff? NO SIR/MAM.

      I will say this – I still have issues playing with others. I was an only child who was NOT socialized at all. I was homeschooled by very religious parents who didn't want anything to influence me. I had no art classes or dance classes. I had me, and my books, and my overbearing mom. So even now, social situations with my peers have sometimes brought on panic attacks, because I don't know how to fit in.

      My mom also wanted lots of kids, but ended up for a long time only having me. I was her end all be all, and best friend – which in this case wasn't healthy.

      SO – make sure your only has lots of playdates! Make sure they step out of their comfort zone from time to time! And make sure you still have an adult life, even if your only is like a tiny adult.

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      • Nice! Elisabeth, I would second what you say about making sure they step out of their comfort zones, and add "make sure you step out of *your* comfort zone." My mom played Nerf basketball with me and signed me up for karate. Now, we're both big nerds, so that meant that my mom broke her glasses in basketball (I know it was a Nerf ball, but the pole was made of metal) and I fell asleep in kindergarten because karate tuckered me out. So these attempts were short-lived, but my mom streeeeetched that comfort zone of hers to make sure she was stretching mine–or exploring its edges before it was fully formed.

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  5. I'll be honest – I loved being an only child. I kinda had the best of both worlds as a kid from a divorced family – I described myself as an only child with five brothers and sisters. I got to be an only child 99% of the time and only had minimal interaction some half-and-step siblings (all more than a decade older or younger, and I'm not in contact with any of them now). I had tons of friends growing up, and I've been more than happy picking my own "sisters" rather than having bio siblings forced on me.

    I was also my mother's only child, and I relished having her to myself, although that also goes hand-in-hand with being the only child for her to disciple/check up on. There is a fine line between us being close and too emeshed.

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  6. Okay- reading this was interesting, I was an only child (my partner is essentially an only child) and I have zero desire to only have one child. Your perspective helped me to understand and accept those who only have one child…. but it didn't convince me one bit lol We're going to "wait and see" when we want to stop, but were both content with the idea of 4+ kids. As only children of divorced parents there are so many more issues and complicated situations that would easily be diffused by having siblings to bear those burdens(holidays)(funerals)(illness)(the amount of family china we've inherited- 8+ sets and counting). I want our children to have family left after we are gone- our kids will never have cousins as we're both only children ourselves. I just cant imagine how hard and lonely it would be for our single child without a family support system after/if both of us are dead.

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    • I don't mean to downplay the serious issue you raise in your post. Indeed, I think it's a good point. I would have been lost without my siblings during this past year. Together we dealt with multiple deployments (mine and my brother's), our parents' divorce, moving houses and several other life changing events. I'm so fortunate to have the support structure inherent in our sibling relationship.

      That said, I had to laugh out loud at your china set quandary. :) Thanks.

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      • I think that it's really hard dealing with burdens when you're one of many. Dealing with seven siblings all argueing and fighting when you lose a parent is horrendous. Hence the reason why I will only have one child. I'm one of too many. And life is too complicated with so many children. You can be lonely even with seven brothers and sisters I can tell you that.

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      • Thanks sevillalost!
        I just didn't want it to get too heavy, and it is a legit problem/situation that we have, I can't stand the thought of getting rid of any of it- and lately I've been joking that we need to have one child for each set of china so we can split it all back up!

        Kiwi- I know where you're coming from as well, my mother is one of five with an alcoholic mother who died of breast cancer very young. … actually that is one of the big reasons why I have so much of the china. My mother's husband was the only person capable of dealing with his mother in law's death at the time, he tried to keep the situation as diffused as possible at that time, and wrapped up the frayed ends after the fact. Therefore nobody else was around to deal with/claim things like the family china, silver, or dining set that has been in the family for 5+ generations. You're correct that it is complicated sometimes, but the chances of having someone to lean on during those times far outweighs the being alone to deal with things risk to me. Even when they fight (anytime they're all together for any amount of time, they all still love each other and know they can rely on one another in times of crisis) I'm also hoping to raise children who can communicate with each other without the bickering and such. *Hoping* :) We're quite a ways away from 5 or 7 though, that's for sure!

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    • i totally agree. i'm a middle child married to an only, and i really want another child, in part to give our son a full sense of family… so maybe right now, i just want him to HAVE to learn to share his toys, but much later in life i'd really like for him to have a sibling to share parental end-of-life issues with.
      that sounds kinda morbid. but the truth is, we all have to deal with our parents dying someday, and i am so sorry that my husband has to do it alone.

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      • Well, this comment entirely sums up my debate of having another child or not. My question in your husband facing the death of he parents. IS he REALLY alone? He is married, you have a child. That is a fear of a parent to leave my child lacking in any part of life. Death of us is my only concern for her. Yea, hopefully my daughter will be old with a family of her own. But will she feel alone in our deaths?

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  7. This post was interesting to me for two reasons. #1, because my husband and I (at this point) are only planning to have one child and #2, because it reminds me a LOT of my own childhood, except that I had a younger brother.

    The difference for my brother and me was that my parents were one of the very few couples in their family and circle of friends who had children. Plus, we lived in a very rural area where there weren't many other children, so much of our social interaction growing up was with adults. Our parents took us along to their grown-up gatherings and out to non-kid-focused restaurants with the understanding that we had better talk and act like adults if we wanted this to be a regular thing. And I loved being in the company of adults. The times where there were other kids around at gatherings, I remember creeping away from the "play room" or other designated kid area to go hang with the adults.

    I guess you could say my brother and I are siblings who were raised like onlies. We had to figure out how to entertain ourselves, and as a result, we're both very good at that. We're both independent and good at being alone and, in fact, we want, need, crave it sometimes. And because we had a sibling, we both had to learn how to share. (Though I admit that like you, Ariel, I'm still not so awesome at that!) My brother is now married to an only child, and I think that's part of the reason they complement each other so well. I guess my point is, I don't think a child needs to be an only to be develop the positive qualities of an only.

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    • This is me as well. My parents have a good ten years on most of their close friends, so as children my sister and I spent a lot of time at cocktail parties speaking about adult things in adult ways with adults. In fact, when I came across an adult stranger who insisted on talking to me like a child I would get angry and frustrated.

      Similarly, my parents never over-scheduled my siste and I with lessons and sports and camps (although we did a few), so we still spent a lot of time being bored, and honing our imaginations, sometimes together, but also often alone.

      That said, I wouldn't give up having a sister for anything. My friendship with my sister is truly the most rewarding relationship I have. She understands me and the way I think and feel moreso than even my husband. While I realize that I can't expect my (future) children to end up best friends, I can't imagine depriving them of the chance to have siblings. Still, I will try my hardest to provide for them that only child experience.

      Good post, Ariel.

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    • Agreed! I am an only child with a younger brother (and my brother is an only child with an older sister ;)), it is kind of nice to hear I am not the only one!

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    • Chiming in to say "me too!" My brother and I were born to young parents and lived most of our formative years out in the woods. Wouldn't trade it for the world. :)

  8. I confess, I am from a 3 sister family and I spend a lot of my time swearing that the worst thing you can do is have an only child. It was really helpful for me to read this and see the positive side. It's still hard for me to not dwell on what I think some of the hardships to be since I am in a relationship with an only child.

    I'm curious what all you onlies think about this theory I've had about my partner (that I'm guessing will turn out to be more about the parenting and his specific tendencies and less about all onlies).

    2 big characteristics of my partner that I think are a result of being an only:
    – he doesn't share information or coordinate/compromise well.
    – he cannot commit to anything

    My thoughts are that because he didn't have to compromise with sibilngs about which movie to pick, where to eat, who gets the car, or any other sharing and coordinating pieces, he does not like to discuss any of his thoughts or plans with anyone and always has control over every decision that's made.

    Because of his loneliness as a kid and wanti for siblings or friends, he was desperate to be a part of whatever fun activity was happening. To this day he wants to keep his options open until the last possible minute so he can pick the best social event to attend and again, the one he wants to go to.

    I also think because his parents were so happy to have him (wanted tons of kids but only could have the one) they didn't put any obligations on him. No family commitments that he HAD to go to, so he doesn't relate to me when I say, "It's my sister's birthday, I have to go" or "they're my parents and they want us at this event" or "it's a family reunion, I don't have a choice." To him, he always has a choice and the closeness I have to my family is weird to him and he would maybe even call it unhealthy.

    Thoughts? Is this just him?

    I wish he just wanted attention because I would cling to all his thoughts if he shared them. The heavenly moment he says what he's maybe thinking about doing for the weekend, or how he might approach cleaning out the garage, send me into orgasmic bliss. I'm so happy he would include me in his plan or thought process since I will be part of the weekend or the clean up. You know?

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    • Every only child is different, but lack of information sharing and overcommitment issues aren't only child issues I've encountered in myself or the onlies that I know.

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      • It's a relief to think there are great benefits to being an only child and that maybe some of the characteristics I worry about aren't due to that. A relief because I want to have kids and would hate to spend time worrying about whether I can have two just to avoid my fears. It would be nice to think that 1 is plenty and has its benefits for all involved.

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      • i second ariel's response to this, and add that i do have the lack of info sharing issue with my husband, who is a younger brother of 2.

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      • My husband is an only child who does not share information well. When I ask why he didn't tell me something, he often says "I thought it, I just didn't say it out loud." My response is usually "Please try not to be in "only child mode!" So, yeah, I guess I always assumed that's what it was as well. Or maybe its just a guy thing. Who knows!

        • Or maybe it's not so much a guy thing as a thing that happens when you have certain kinds (or lack of) parents? My partner fits the description pretty closely at times, and he had a sister. His explanation is that when he was growing up his parents never really kept track of what he was up to, or what he thought about anything. He mostly took care of himself, so he never got used to updating anyone (but he's gotten a lot better about it).

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        • "Please try not to be in only child mode!" or variations thereof have the potential to be interpreted as an insult. Any blaming of behaviour exhibited in adulthood on the only child status, particularly from someone who has siblings, may be perceived as a slight against the whole family (all two or three members) of the only child. Have a think about how you would feel if his 'usual response' to a behaviour you have is that it is because you are the eldest/middle child/baby of the family?

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    • OMG, you could almost be talking about my husband. He is so similar. He is an only and his parents were unable to have more. He did grow up to be close to his cousins (each of his parents are 1 of 4, so there are plenty of cousins to go around), but was very lonely most of the time. His parents divorced when he was young, so he spent much of his time alone while his mom worked full time and put herself through school. He also has communication issues, and finds it difficult to commit to things.

      My brother is only 16 months younger than I and so I have no concept of what it's like to be an only. I can't remember ever having time to myself when I was a child. I also always figured that I would have more than one because that's what I knew. By contrast, my husband swore that he would not have an only and put a child through what he went through.

      For a long time, we thought we would have an only. After a trying to have a second child off and on for years with no success, we had resolved ourselves to only having our daughter. And were fine with that. She's wonderful and we enjoy (nearly, tantrums aside) every moment we have with her. Then, found out we were pregnant with #2. Our 9 year-old, who we were certain would be an only, is an only no longer. Of course, now we're having #3 and our second daughter will only be 18 months old when this one is born.

      My oldest still has the experience of being an only in the sense that she's so much older than her siblings, but is still young enough that she's learning what it's like to have to share her personal space and time with mom and dad. Her experience is shaping up to be completely different from either my husband's or mine.

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    • I second what Ariel says about the communication stuff. The two most commitment-phobic, "let me find out what else is going on and I'll let you know" people I know have two and three siblings, respectively. One is a dude and one is a chick, so I can't blame it on gender either. They're just like that!

    • Wow what you were saying about the commitment thing is SO true. Even as an adult I get kind of panicky and excited like a dog whose people have FINALLY come home when I hear about social events. I get so excited about them, and terribly let down if they don't fulfill my hopes and expectations. I think I kind of treat socializing like someone accostomed to famine treats a trip to Shoney's buffet. You are so excited to get to do it, but sometimes the steak a'int that good.

    • I'm an only child and never have had a problem with compromise or information sharing. In fact, I probably over share information. I can bore people to death with minute details in stories. And it's never my way or the highway when a decision is made, big or small.
      My husband, who is one of six kids, used to think it was odd how close my family is. I may not have brothers or sisters but I have tons of cousins, great aunts and uncles..He has his parents and sibilings, and his parents are the only ones he is close to.

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    • I'm an only child & I absolutely loved it. I'm also very extroverted & open emotionally. When living with roommates I was able to share & compromise well. However, when I moved in with my 1st boyfriend (now husband) I did have to adjust a bit to sharing my bedroom with someone else. I think that's probably natural though.

      I think my more negative traits probably come from the way I was parented. That may have something to do with being an only child though (it's hard to tell) because to parent an only means all your hopes/fears are pinned on that one child. Either way, I don't feel like I'm any more or less screwed up than my friends with siblings.

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    • I have these same issues with my partner who is a youngest child (both of his brothers are about a decade older than him, I think his oldest was about 16 when he was born) and he can't cordite his thoughts for shit. I told him it drives me nuts as an oldest child, and we've been working through it. Sometimes when he makes his, "I'm thinking face" I just ask what he wants to do, and stare at him blankly until he verbalizes it. In the beginning he thought I was nuts but now, he responds almost immediately. But as an oldest child he has noticed that I can NOT be last in anything, not matter what it is. I think no matter were you are in the line of children they are pro's and cons. But I want an only, me and my partner call him out "Perfect Son, the ONE perfect little son" that we each want one day.

  9. I nearly peed myself when I read, "I'll take you out for a nice dinner (my treat! have a third glass of wine!), but stab your hand with a fork if you try to sneak a taste of something on my plate." I am the EXACT same way and I also get the "Sharing is not the same as generosity" speech from my husband. Ah well. Maybe some day I will learn….

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  10. As one of 2 siblings, I have to say that there were times I wished I was an only child. However, as a child of divorce especially, it is nice to have at least 1 other person in the world who knows what it was like to grow up the way you did.
    Seems like there are lots of good reasons for both!

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  11. I'm the oldest of 3 kids. I'm almost 30 and I'm STILL angry as hell that my parents had two other kids. I remember being happy as an only child and then devastated when my little brother came and my whole world changed. When forced to confront my anger issues over my brother and sister, older family members (parents included) told me that one day they will be your "best friends" — the older we get, the more I can't stand them. So then what was the point? We didn't enjoy each other growing up, we REALLY don't enjoy each other now, every child creates their own family dramas that impact every other family member if they like it or not. At times it seems like torture. Which is not to say that multiple sibling never work out — it's just to say that from my experience, it's not worth it.

    So Ariel, I'm with you. The more I look at only children and all the love and attention they get, how mature they are at such young ages and how much they can't even fathom all shit I go through because of two extra people that my parents gave birth to, the more I KNOW that if I ever have a kid, I'm stopping at one. I would NEVER want to risk putting my child through the hell that I go through because of my siblings. ONLIES FTW!

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    • Oh, but that sharing thing… yeah, you guys gotta work on that! 😉 My bff is awesome in every way, he was the reason I decided that I wanted to be an only parent (if that time came) but he's the WORST at sharing. He won't even GIVE Ariel, so… at least you got that working for ya. 😉

    • I can only agree with Funkin here. I had the same "your bro will totally be your best adulthood bud" arguement with my mother dozens of times. Our relationship has been strained, awkward and uncomfortable (at best) from the word go. We are too different as people to ever see eye to eye. So on that score, I always wished I was an Only.

      That said, I think the precorcious child arguement is also valid for first-bornsies. I was given a lot of responsility from a young age to help take care of younger bro. It was my job, for example, to help him do homework and chores.

      Also, I think a lot of onlies get babied a lot more than kids with siblings in some familes (no judgement here, I don't think this is the majority by far), resulting in adults with hyperinflated egos.

      6 of one, half a dozen of the other, I suppose. I think it's up to individual parents to decide what's best for their family. Thanks for the thought provoking article!

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  12. i'm a very VERY VERY proud only child!

    i've always called my parents by their names, and my parents never wanted to be referred to as mr. or mrs. it was always joe and michele (my parents names)

    and when it came to attention not only was i an only child but on one side of the family i was the oldest child AND on the other i was the youngest.

    my parents took me on vacation to a place where there were tons of kids which was nice and people always asked me don't you want to go to this place or that and i'd respond but there are no other kids to play with

    my parents went out of their way to socialize me because i was very awkward socially up until i was in my late teens my parents even bought a old used mini van so we could take more kids along in outings, because we could only take 2 people along when we went out and as in typical fashion my parents paid for everything including my limo for prom and half of the house we shared down the nj shore

    the only downside i had being an only child is that people just didn't get that i didn't want brothers and sisters and that people didn't get why i got along with my parents so well

    yet my son will not be an only child i love being a mom a million times more than i thought i was and now i want a whole gaggle of kids

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  13. This was really interesting and good to have little notes about my sweet only child husband.

    We thought our boy would be an only. And here we are 9 years later with a 6 month old. In a way, they will both be singletons. My little guy was not planned but also not a real surprise. We wanted him very much but our son wanted him even more. I kinda think that we're getting the best of both worlds.

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  14. I'm like Kelly, in that I am the child of divorced parents, so I grew up with 3 older half-siblings (who were 10ish years older than me). I'm still close with 2 of them, but most of my memories of childhood are times when it was just my parents and I. I remember really enjoying that. It helped that my best friend growing up was also an only child, so we spent a lot of time together (including our family vacations! This post made me realize that was an only child thing, I really never thought about it before!).

    I do think I missed out on some socialization, because my mom stayed home with me for 5 years. I think it would have been better for me in the long run to be in day care at least part time, but I understand her reasons for choosing to stay at home.

    But I definitely notice the imagination thing and being able to spend time alone. I spent a lot of time by myself – drawing, reading and playing pretend. I still tend to require a fair bit of alone time – I'm a classic introvert, where too much social time exhausts me and I need some alone time to recharge.

    My partner and I are planning on having one kid (though we're doing IVF though so we could end up with twins) and are both happy with that decision.

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    • We were so committed to only having one that, when we did IVF, we chose to do a single embryo transfer rather than risk twins. That's how much of an only-child bigot I am: I'd rather have no kids than two! Damn! :)

      1 agrees
  15. Additional question for all of you onlies. When my mom ended up with breast cancer, I couldn't imagine not having my 2 sisters there. Only they knew how my family handles this kind of thing (no over affection, no big tears) and with 3 of us, we always know we have the ability to share in the cost and caring of our parents should they need more as they get older.

    My partner is an only child and his mom is in a wheelchair with very little ability to care for herself. His dad cares for her completely but as they get older, his ability both physically and financially to care for her will start to shift to my partner. This is extremely stressful on him, knowing what's to come. And he also feels unable to move away or go on long far away trips, in case something should go wrong, because there isn't anyone else to be there to help care for them.

    So part of me always thought I would have 2 kids so they wouldn't be alone in the decisions and "burden" that caring for your parents may bring. And I of course don't really think of it as a burden, but I hope you understand what I mean.

    It's also very hard for my partner to believe me when I say, "if your parents or mom ever needed to live with us, I wouldn't think twice about it or if we needed to support them financially we would make it work." It doesn't make sense to him to share this burden with someone else. Whereas my sisters and I will always share the responsibility.

    Thoughts? Have any of you onlies already gone through this alone? Do any of you that are having onlies worry about this?

    I am really enjoying this thread because I think those of us who have not experienced it may have a lot of skewed views or worries that we don't really have any justification for. And clearly I want to feel okay about 1 child if that is what my future looks like.

    Thanks to everyone for their candid thoughts and honest experiences.

    • Elder care is a very real issue for adult onlies. But just in the same way that my parents had to be super hands-on with me as an only child, I'm going to have to be super hands-on with them as elders.

      Assuming they don't off themselves first. My mom loves to talk about her latest dying with intent fantasy. Previous fantasies include: jumping off cliff and being eaten by birds, hiking to coast and "just laying down to die," feeding self to lions.

      1 agrees
      • My mom has made strange comments like that! I'm her only child.

        For toftie and others with her concern, I would add: from friends and family I've observed, there's no guarantee that a sibling is helpful when a parent is old, sick, or dying. The sibling could have problems that prevent them from being helpful. I know it's sad to think about that. But just as Ariel points out that having a second child doesn't spare you grief should something tragic happen to your first, I have seen that it's also true that having a sibling doesn't guarantee relief, help, or support even when parents need help.

        We can see here that many people *do* benefit from that support, even with a sibling they don't get along with, like Ariel V! So that's great. But I have seen it work the other way.

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        • When my mother died I cared for her in her last year alone despite having having seven brothers and sisters. They spent the whole time fighting over who should look after her while I just looked after her. Having more than one child doesn't guarantee you'll have someone to help you look after your sick parents. Mind you – I felt it was a blesssing to be able to care for her in her hour of need. It was a way of giving back because she had done so much for me.

          4 agree
    • Yep, my experience has been like others who aren't terribly grateful they had siblings. I was an only for 8 years when my parents had my sister, and I was devastated, and I got that same line about her being my best friend later in life. She is now 28, and we have (at the least) disliked each other for all 28 of those years.

      It all depends on the family, of course, but I think it's a ridiculous fantasy to think that just because you have children they will be friends. You don't know who a child is going to be just because they share your DNA. Their personalities may mesh, they may not.

      But, I am also now an adult in the midst of caring for my dying mother, and I am SO grateful to have my sister to share this with. Not emotionally – we are not supporting one another through this and if anything are having an even greater exacerbation of our issues with one another because of it. But the simple fact that she will be trading off with me in a couple of weeks is huge. I am grateful that I can go home for a couple of weeks to recharge, fall into the supportive arms of my chosen family, and re-bond with my cat. It almost makes up for the rest.

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      • it's defiantly an interesting situation when all of a sudden you need to aid for an ill parent when you're an only child. my mother came down with early onset dementia when i was only 18 (actually the week i turned 18) i took over taking care of my mother because my father had to keep working since they were a 2 person income household.

        it was really hard not to have anyone able to help like i did. i actually ended up not going away to college so i could help and the i ended up dropping out of school because of her care. it was hard because it was just me

        my mother passed away in dec. and because i'm an only child it scares me a little bit. now all i have left is my father, but i was lucky enough to have my awesome child last summer and i'm with someoe whos in it for the long hall

        but i do wish there was more people i my immediate family for the fact that my dad, when he's gone i'll have no one left

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        • It does suck being the one to shoulder the burden, but having siblings is no guarantee you'll get to divvy up the tasks of caring for aging parents either. I've seen one too many families where one child is tagged the "caretaker" and everyone else is conveniently too busy/too far away to be bothered to help.

          3 agree
    • I can tackle this from a the other side — having siblings. It TERRIFIES me to think about my parents getting sick or getting hospitalized or dying BECAUSE I have siblings. I know that it's going to be made 100% more awful having to fight with my (in my experience) completely illogical siblings during that time. I would much rather deal with it on my own, as I see fit, without the extra drama, with just my awesome husband and friends to be there for me. I seriously worry about this all the time and wished (again) that I was an only child, and my parents are completely healthy.

      1 agrees
      • my father came from a family of 5 kids, when my grandmother passed away it caused a huge fight, to the point where i haven't talked to members of my family from the time i was 4 or 5 until my son was born (i figured let's stop fighting because i don't know why we are and my son deff. does not) even on my mom's side of family similar issues came up when her parents passed away so i kind of think of being an only child makes it easier to deal with things of that nature, but at the same time it puts more of a strain on you as a person.

    • i cannot IMAGINE life without siblings: sister in army with whom i speak almost daily (even when she was in kuwait!) and brother in same city. he, his gf, my hubs and i are bffs – vacation, dinner together, etc.

      on the other hand, hubs has sister he barely tolerates, who ADDS to the "caring for sick parents" drama.

      my brother's gf is totally estranged from her brother and has fights with sister (in 30s) every time there is a family gathering.

      my point? i can see both sides. i think because my sibs and me are so close, we have "taken in" hubs and gf, they have become fourth-and-fifth siblings. i imagine onlies often find "sibling" closeness in cousins, in-laws, best friends, etc.

      2 agree
      • i'm very VERY close with my 2 older cousins. we always went on vacation together and grew up together pretty much. my son will (because he can't really speak yet) refer to both of them as aunt. we're close like sisters are. we fight but also love each other

        1 agrees
    • My parents aren't at that age yet, but it does concern me a bit being an only. On the other hand, if you have one kid or six there's no guarantee that any of them are going to take care of you when you're old.

      I've also heard numerous horror stories of siblings fighting to the point of ruined relationships as the parents get sick and pass away. It's either arguments over money, effort, or who gets what when they die. I'm sometimes glad it will just be me handling things when my parents get older.

    • I can't imagine going to my brother for support with anything and I can't imagine him calling me up. When we were kids and my dad died, we weren't even helpful to each other then.
      My mom is one of 7 kids and you'd think that between them they'd have care of my grandparents covered, but my mom has taken care of almost everything.
      My main reason for only having one child is because I care deeply about the future of this planet. Almost all of our problems stem from overpopulation. Why do 2 people need to replace themselves, or worse, create more than themselves? One thoughtfully raised child seems much more valuable. I know parents think that they are teaching their kid to share and to not be narcissistic by not giving them their undivided attention all the time (and that only children can be neglected too) but I think there's much better ways to learn that lesson. I want to give my daughter all the love and attention I possibly can. I figure that she didn't ask to be born into this world. It was my choice, and I owe her my very best undivided attention (and room to be independent, of course).

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      • I agree 100% about overpopulation…it is the root of so many of the world's problems. Thanx for putting this sentiment in words. So glad I'm having only 1, for precisely the reasons you state…He's going to get, as you state, our very best undivided attention (and independence)!

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    • I'm an Only that didn't come along until my parents had been married 18 years. Very soon, I'll be faced with the same bleakness your husband faces. Not gonna lie, it sucks. If I think about it too hard I start to hate it, but then I remember that I've had the burden of "Daddy being old" looming over me for my entire life, and I've been so SO loved in spite of that for nearly 30 years.

      What worries me more is that my FHTB is also an Only with older parents; if the burden of their care falls to us at the same time, we're faced with an even bigger problem. We'll have to be ready to fly in one direction or the other at short notice every single day. And other than each other, neither of us has the kind of support group both of my parents had when my grandparents passed away. The ends of lives are when families pull together, even when siblings don't usually get along, but we'll be the other's only family when the time comes. The thought terrifies me, especially growing up as poor as I did and knowing that his family is hip deep in credit card debt.

      But the fact that I'm able to plan for that possibility without the panic many people feel at the thought of their parents passing on is another of my strengths as an Only. I grew up worried and putting other people's needs before my own (and admittedly angry about it), but that's part of what made me realistic and organized. It's part of what made me strong. It's not the most positive part of being an Only, but it's another possible skill. Supportive siblings would help, but a supportive spouse will do more good, siblings or not.

    • I'm an only child and I take comfort in the fact that I only have to follow my parents wishes for their end of life care.

      My mom has 6 siblings, all geographically far flung from each other. One of my aunts moved my grandmother in with her during her last year of life and cared for her without any local support, like an only child would have to. Once my grandmother passed all 7 fought bitterly over her things, ignoring grandmas wishes over who would have what and the funeral arrangements. 3 years later my mom is still complaining about a spoon she didn't get and everyone hates that my mom took my grandmothers knitting needles for me (even though I'm the only knitter). Very ugly, very petty.

  16. As an only child I also appreciated that without siblings to compare myself to OR to be compared with I was able to more easily (I think) develop my own identity rather than having something foisted upon me (the oldest and therefore responsible one, the baby who is spoiled, the smart one, the athletic one).

    I still feel like I have a lot more freedom to be my own person because since I'm the only kiddo my parents know, they think most things I do are just fine, whereas if there was a sibling to compare to I worry I might not have measured up.

    1 agrees
  17. Blood related family isn't the only family out there. My best girl friends are closer to me than my parents and my brother. So onlies or those without a close connected family can be blessed to have non-blood related "sisters" and adopted "mothers" who are there and you love just as much as any blood related family.

    1 agrees
  18. can't imagine life without my lil sis!! An argument for multiple children, what happens when there is a horrible accident/tragic death in the family, and you are down to just an only child? What if you only started with one? I can't imagine that sort of a loss . . . it's a selfish argument to have more than 1 child.

    On the flip side, I know a friend who is an only and she basically got a job in college because she was an only and "knew how to work alone/by herself"

    • Yeah, I'm not sure "additional children as insurance premium against potential grief" makes a lot of sense for me.

      2 agree
      • I know a mother who has lost one of her two children in a horrible car accident. The devastation and grief it caused her was not mitigated by having another child. If anything, the surviving child didn't get full attention and care while the mother was wrapped up in her grief.

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    • "If your kid dies past that window, you'll never have a kid again. Sure, you'll have the memories, but that's it."

      Absolutely not true, and pretty surprising that this was stated on here. What about adoption? Surrogacy? Foster parenting? There are LOTS of options to have kids in almost all walks of life. If a parent loses their child later in life and is infertile, they can still have kids just like ANY other infertile couple.

      1 agrees
      • "There are LOTS of options to have kids in almost all walks of life. If a parent loses their child later in life and is infertile, they can still have kids just like ANY other infertile couple."

        And sometimes a parent who loses a child will decide not to have another one, for various reasons. My son was stillborn almost five years ago, and I have decided not to have any other children – in part because of age, in part because of some goals I have in my life, in part because it just doesn't feel right for me.

        One child cannot replace another, in any way. It's just not possible.

        2 agree
  19. This was fascinating, both article and comments. I'm the youngest of five children. At one point my mother had four children five and under, but then a twelve-year gap before I was born. (Surprise!) I feel that I got the best of both worlds. Four older siblings who adored me (my sister only applied to one local college because she didn't want to miss me growing up, and she'd take me to all the Disney movies and sometimes I spent weekends at her dorm – great memories), but a solid support system. The age gap is enough that I never felt pressure to be like them, but my parents never freaked about anything I did because someone had done it before. (When I wanted to dye my hair pink, my mother said to go ahead because it's only hair, and afterwards told me how great it looked.) I've always been a huge reader, so I never felt bored as a child. My parents enrolled me in daycare for socialization, but I never got on with the other kids and my mother would arrive in the afternoon to find the others outside playing and me inside, all alone, reading a book. So that didn't work out so well, and I had a rough time of it in school, but I can't imagine being any other way.

    2 agree
  20. I have to say I'm on the fence with this. I am 25 now and an only child, even though I always considered my parents' siblings (seven uncles between 16 and 23 at the time I was born) and now their children (3-13 of age atm) as a "sibling-replacement" but I have to say that up to this day I would rather have had a sibling.
    It's strange to me though, because reading Ariel's post I realised how many of these things I would agree with (like being more like a small adult than a child or being wildly imaginative and I had almost verbatim the same statement on my gradecards in primary school) but I always felt that it would have benefitted me to have been exposed to children my age more. Being an Only has made me very individualistic and why I love love love that about myself, it gets me in constant trouble with other people. Sharing not only space or other things but especially friends and friend's time is sometimes difficult for me.
    And the past year has increased my wish to have had a sibling. My Mum has had a stroke at the age of 45 and while she has recovered greatly, there was a huge strain on me since she was really unhappy during her recovery (and still is) and loaded a lot of that onto me. And while you can talk to your friends about that, I felt having a sibling to share that with would have helped me not having to feel so guilty and responsible for my mother. I think there are great reasons for either decision though…

    And just on the food issue. My best friend who is also an Only and me realised recently that we don't only stab people with forks, we also inquire differently. Rather than asking: "Is anybody still wanting/eating that?" we ask "None of you is wanting that, right?" (fork already in the last piece of cake/corn-on-cob/whatever)… we do get a LOT of stick for that^^

    2 agree
  21. I am an only (currently single with no children). I lean towards the loving it side but I do have a few issues with it… a lot of what's been said already.

    First of all, I'm incredibly independent. Always have been from a very early age. Like Ariel mentioned, I was at adult parties mingling with adults at age 3. I think that did make me a good conversationalist and also a social butterfly. But I've also been totally happy to be alone and don't NEED a partner (which could be looked at as a bad thing in our society).

    I've always had an easy time making friends and love my close friends like family. Like someone else mentioned, a couple of my girlfriends are like sisters to me.

    I work for myself and love it (another symptom of doing homework myself, playing alone, etc). Only problem is I have a hard time delegating which is difficult to move business further, but I'm working on that.

    Here's what I think could be possible differences in only children and their behaviors (of course, not always the case but sometimes)… only children of divorced parents have different issues to deal with. I was almost smothered by my mother. I was her everything after she left my father. Wonder if that's why I now live 3000 miles away from her? I love her dearly but I'm guessing that had something to do with it. I also HATED holidays! It was always down to "who gets Megan." I was always put in the middle and that role was incredibly uncomfortable at a young age (yes, that was my parents shit but I think that's pretty typical).

    And lastly, with my father's sudden passing 6 years ago, I have to say it was utterly awful to go through that alone. That was the only time I really hated being an only child. I would have loved the support and comfort of a sibling at that time and I can already visualize a painful time when my mother ages, as it's going to be all up to me to care for her. Granted, I'll easily put my life of hold when that happens (despite the smothering, she was an amazing mother).

    So I think for me, there are pros and cons. I don't have kids but I would happily raise an only child and be seriously ok with that decision… mostly that I'm not into over-population and knowing that I was an only and came out pretty well (if I do say so myself).

    1 agrees
    • As an only child of divorced parents, I really understand this. My husband is one of three, and his extended family is huge and local. My extended family is huge too, but live on the other side of the country. Suffice it to say, holidays get very busy. We have way too many places to go, and in my family, not attending isn't an option. No one wants to share holidays, either, because both my parents want equal "me" time. However, this is our first holiday season with my son, so now I get to set the rules. It's going to be great!

      However, one of the bigger pros of having divorced parents is that I get to collect steps! I have a step-sister and step-brother that I adore (and they were both raised as only children, so we all get it), and even have a little nephew now.

      2 agree
  22. Deciding family size is a totally personal thing. Some people are built for a big brood and others are not. I always tell inquiring folks, "I can be a really great parent to an only child or a mediocre parent to two." That usually shuts people right up.

    2 agree
    • So true! I mean, I plan on having only one child (unless twins or something suddenly arise). As absolutely horrible as this it, our lifestyle wouldn't really accommodate more, partially for financial reasons, but mainly because we like living in an urban centre (thus less space), we like taking trips (costly with multiple children), and I am at high risk for post-partum depression. While I plan on having one kid, I don't think I would put myself at risk more than once.

      On the flip side, I think big families are great too! The main arguement I hear against them in offbeat/alternative culture is that they are horrible for the environment. I think only kids can be just as horrible, it is all about how the family uses resources. I mean, hasn't anyone met couples with zero kids who live in McMansions and then say, "Oh, we aren't having kids because it is bad for the environment" then drive off in separate gas guzzling SUVs. That came out ranty, but what my point is that there isn't a "Wrong" number of kids. It is so personal, and it so depends on what works for you!

      1 agrees
  23. You make some good points…but I am not convinced! haha. I can't imagine only having one child…and neither can my husband (he is an only child and did not like it at all!). We don't know how many kids we'll end up having…but more than one for sure.

    1 agrees
  24. My mom had five daughters and I can see a lot of drawbacks and pluses I encountered as one of five kids. I always had someone to play with, I am a fantastic mediator and compromise-r, etc. But I have always thought there were some drawbacks; for one I have a hard time meeting and maintaining new friendships. I think this is related to siblingness because I always had a built-in "crew"… and still do, so I never got used to putting myself out there to make new friends or maintaining relationships that were not the kind that ensured themselves (I will ALWAYS have my sisters, even though we've been total inconsiderate shitheads to each other here and there).

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    • I am sorry that that comment was barely readable…

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  25. I was an only child. I had a half brother and half sister, but they had both moved out by the time I was born. I do have some pics of me 'helping' my brother fix his motorcycle. He left for the army by the time I was 2 and my sister moved all around and ended up in a hospital for bipolar scizophrenia. I didn't even know she existed until I was 12 or so. I know them both now, but really grew up by myself. I'm confident and can work by myself well, but am an introvert, which seems to be the opposite of some onlies on here. Socially, my parents sent me to an afterschool program which gave me time to play with my friends. I usually got to invite a friend or cousin along on our vacations, unless our vacations were to see extended family. I don't know if I share well, as I've never really had to. My husband and I still keep some things separate.

    I always wanted a big family and have two boys that are 2 yrs apart. Luckily, they are still really close and have fun playing together. When I divorced, I was glad that I had both of them, as they do get along so well. Now, I'm pregnant again; my oldest will be 9 1/2 when this one is born. To each their own…

  26. An aside: Andreas read this post, and was like "Um, that sort of freaked me out. You're freaking me out. Everything you said is awesome is something that freaks me out about only children."

    I cackled like a crazy woman.

  27. I've definitely decided after reading all the comments that how we turn it out is based upon too many things to nail down. Who we are by nature (my sisters and I are completely different from each other), how our parents raise us, what they expose us to, big events in our childhoods, how many siblings you have or don't have, extended family, etc.

    Many of you describe traits you believe you have because you are an only child that I feel I have as well (but I'm not an only). I always attribute a lot of my traits to growing up in the military, moving a lot, having to make friends quickly, learning to be okay playing alone because my sisters were twins and thought I was a brat, being obligated to attend many adult functions (military get-togethers) and talk to the adults about ourselves (and offer hors d'oeuvres to them – child labor 😛 ).

    So I guess the best part about this is knowing as a parent you can create the best experience and exposure for your children (or child) as you want, and the "worst" part is it may not matter if they are just at heart very different in their own way.

    But I'd still love to see a study.

    1 agrees
    • I feel the same, and am also a military kid.

      Although I couldn't imagine growing up without my little brother, who was my constant playmate, even if at 18 he annoys the ever-loving crap out of me. And my 5 months older stepsister, even though we weren't part of the same family until I was 14, I could never do without.

      I just think we're so variable nailing it down to anything is nigh impossible, and it's a very personal decision!

  28. I'm an only child, and also lived in a fairly rural place As an only child, you really learn to entertain yourself and get used to (and even thrive in) quiet time.

    My husband comes from a huge family, all very loud and southern, and it was a huge thing for us to get used to each other and our life styles. He had to learn that I frequently needed quiet time, and would just as well enjoy solitary activities as social ones. And now that I'm a mother, it's even more important to my mental well being to have some alone time.

    Yet, the more that my husband sees my family's interactions, which are a lot more "private" than his, even though they are no less caring, the more he wants our son to be an only child.

    1 agrees
  29. Thank you SOOO much for this article! I decided to have a baby late in life (I'm 36 now) and don't really think I'll have another…since I grew up fairly closely with a little sister 3 years younger than me, I felt kind of guilty for not "giving" my daughter a sibling. I was reminded by family, though, that just because she has a sibling, doesn't mean they'd get ALONG. Strange concept to me, since my sister and I are so close.

    I'm the oldest of two, and I found myself thinking and speaking like an adult from the time I was very young. I was very independent, and LOVED time by myself. Had you asked me back then, I might've said I wished I was an only child…But over the years, my sister and I have become very close, and it's so nice to have someone to talk about family to, who knows all that you know. Hence my guilt about having an "only."

    But I dunno, you make a strong argument for it! In any case, it at least makes me feel a little better about my situation (I don't want to be pregnant at 40 and I don't want another baby right NOW), and definitely gives me ideas of things to work on with my daughter, like sharing and communicating. Thanks so much for this article, and for all the responses it generated.

  30. Both the post AND comments have been so, so interesting! Coming from a huge family myself, I have always heard the whole "Only kids are weird and can't make friends" or "People who have 1 child are selfish and are doing harm to their kid by not giving them siblings to bond with"…and even though I know deep down it's not true, it still goes off in my head like a smoke alarm every time I contemplate having only 1 child.

    It's also not true that if you have more than 1 child that they will be best friends (my brother and i, sort of. most people i know, not so much)and does not guarantee any kind of "grief support" when family gets sick/dies(and since both of my parents are deceased, i would know).

    Being someone who goes back and forth between wanting 1 or 2 children, what I've gathered from all of this is that…no matter what your kid situation, be the awesomest parent possible for your particular kid situation. If you have 1 kid…AWESOME…but you probably want to be more proactive about socializing and setting up opportunities to learn about sharing, etc…so be prepared for that. Have 2+ kids…ROCK ON…but take time to give each one individual attention and set up opportunities for them to learn to be independent/alone. Either way…just do whats right for YOUR family, both choices are right…just don't make choices based on unfounded, crazy fears!

    2 agree
  31. GREAT post! I am not an only child, but I AM much younger than my only sibling, so she was out of the house before I even noticed her being there type idea.

    I think the "being used to being alone" idea is key. I go to movies and restaurants alone. This SHOCKS people, and I have no idea why. I have always done a lot of things alone. After all, sometimes I don't want to deal with compromising on what I want to do, and sometimes people are busy especially when you have a lot of friends with unusual work schedules. In addition, my husband loves that I am not breathing down his neck constantly. We do a lot of things together, but I don't drag him along to things that only interest me just for the sake of having someone there.

    I also had to get used to going out to adult restaurants right away. I preferred Chateaubriand over MickeyDs anyday.

    That said, I think big families are awesome too, and have their own awesome benefits. I just hate it when people assume that having an only child is going to destine them for loneliness and social awkwardness lol!

  32. Technically I am not an only child. Bio wise I have two half sisters (one from each parent). One of them I do not know and the other I'd prefer not to. (My mother was very understanding when I decided that I had enough drama and disowned my sister) I have five stepsisters from my stepfather but he and my mom didn't get together until his children were grown and I was around thirteen, they are very nice people but I don't really consider them family. That said, I was raised as an only child and let me tell you I wish to gods that had been the case. The only thing my sister ever provided was a strong dose of psycho. My parents on the other hand were absolutely fantastic. I wasn't materially spoiled but I was certainly adored. Knowing how loved I was and how important I was to my parents gave me a very solid bedrock of self esteem. Being raised as an only child when I had a sibling? I'm like my parents and she is like her father, there was a huge personality clash. (Other people in my family have described as "I love your sister but I don't like her.") I am contemplating having one child, someday. I completely agree with this post, I have all the characteristics of an only child. (especially the generous to a fault but does not share) I have the only child decision from two sides: cannot stand my siblings and enjoyed being raised like an only child.

  33. I think your point about socialization, sharing, etc are VERY important.

    My grandmother adopted a little girl who is now 15. She's been the only child homeschooled on a rural horse farm her entire life. She is also the brattiest, most self-absorbed, jerk I have ever had to deal with. Probably the most frustrating thing about it to everyone else in the family is there were early, early warning signs that the girl was NOT getting the proper socialization she needs and my grandmother didn't really do anything to try and remedy it.

    One classic episode was when my aunt finally convinced my grandmother she should really enroll the girl in some sort of after school classes when she was about 6 years old. My grandmother brought her to "drama camp" for about a week. At the end of that week, the coordinator for the program took my grandmother aside and told her the girl was having some serious issues with the other kids, particularly in the areas of sharing and boundaries. Rather than my grandmother reflecting upon this information, she stopped taking her to the camp!

    I have no idea what this poor girl is going to do once she enrolls in college and is no longer under the umbrella of my grandmother.

  34. I'm one of five. My dad was 6 of 7. Mom, 2 of 2. Max gap between my siblings is 2.5 years. Max gap between my dad's siblings was 5 years – minimum, 14 months. We're into kids. One one side, I have 31 cousins, 8 cousins in laws, 5 first cousins once removed plus 2 more on the way.

    We like kids. Most of the objections voiced to big families have to do with not getting along with your siblings. I have to say, that's the part I love about having a bit family. We get along. It is possible. We get along with our cousins, our aunts, our uncles. Not that we're all entirely a big happy family, but most of the time, well, we are. This may be rare, but with good parenting and leadership, it actually can happen. Shocking, I know. But honestly, if your fear of having several kids is based in bad sibling relationships in your past – you can make a difference and change that, you really can. Restoration is possible.

    1 agrees
  35. My brother was born when I was nearly nine, but I didn't stop thinking of myself as an only child until he started talking in coherent sentences, when I was about 11. By then, I had already developed that precocity and affinity for adults over my peers, and yes, I could have used more socialization. In a way, I still consider myself an only child. I used to be more like a third parent; my relationship with him now is much more like his cool aunt who breezes into town now and then, hangs out with him, buys him some candy, and disappears. I usually do grown-up duties like buying his school supplies, getting him to soccer practices, making sure he bathes, and sometimes talking to him about sex.
    We never played together unless I was ordered to. It was like our parents were working on separate projects at the same time. Looking back on my childhood, he and I have very few shared experiences; we were often in the same place, just always doing our own, separate things. On vacations, he'd go with one parent and I'd go with the other for various activities; I started high school when he started kindergarten, and I'm finishing college as he enters high school. Luckily they never forced us to have some artificial relationship where we'd be best buddies, and we've grown into an easy, friendly relationship, but we don't confide in each other or rely on each other. Our upbringings are very different — my parents relaxed after round one — and we have very little in common.
    So how has being a half-only kid affected me? I'm very protective of my little brother, and behave like his parent; no one yells louder at his soccer games, and I hold him to a higher standard than either of our parents. I also learned to be alone largely BECAUSE of him: our parents were often too busy with their oft-sickly baby/toddler to give me a lot of attention through the years I could've really used it. I've never shaken the impression that he's my mother's favorite. (We have a running "joke" that isn't really a joke where we alternatingly lay claim to the title Favorite Child by winning our parents' favor with gifts, achievements, etc. We yell it out like they yell "King of the Lab!" on Bones.) It's been a great training ground for motherhood, but I certainly don't feel like I grew up with a sibling: I grew up with a responsibility, and by sheer luck it turned into one that I am fiercely protective of.
    Interestingly, my brother has a habit of thinking of himself as the one who will always be a part of the family, and thinking of me as the one who left and will always be far away. (He was nine when I left for college.) He imagines him alone caring for our parents in their old age, and me occasionally visiting as I do now. He imagines the entire process of his life as that of an only child, him and his parents, and a peripheral character called his sister, who will be there, but not REALLY be there. I don't know if it's because he's young or because we're basically two only children raised by the same people, in the same house, at overlapping times.

    Just things to consider when deciding how many and when. I personally worry too much about overpopulation to have more than two.

    1 agrees
  36. I really enjoyed this post, but I think a better title would be "Why children of awesome parents are awesome". Ariel, it sounds like you have fantastic parents, who made great decisions, and enabled you to make some great decisions for yourself. I am a psychologist and I work with families, on mostly court appointed cases. I've seen a lot, and in my experience, birth order and only child theories don't carry all that much weight. I've met my fair share of precocious children but the one who takes the cake was smack in the middle of 5 kids!

    When it comes to burdens surrounding the death of a parent etc. – the fact of the matter is we can't shelter our children from the hardships of life, irregardless of whether they are onlies or one of many. Our children are individual, who grow up to have their own experiences and sometimes the hardest thing about being a parent is letting that go.

    Currently my partner and I are trying to conceive and frankly, we haven't given any thought to how many kids we want. We may have one, we may have ten, but as of right now we'll see where the wind takes us. Who knows, after having one we may stop there and I am more than okay with that!

    2 agree
    • "Why children of awesome parents are awesome"

      Absolutely true, Rhon. As I tried to disclaim, all I have is my anecdotal experience to offer, and with a few quibbles here and there, my parents WERE awesome. But I think my childhood was EXTRA awesome because I had them to myself. :)

      2 agree
  37. I'm an environmentalist so I could not possibly have more than one child. It goes against what I believe – ethically.

    Thank-you for your post. I get tired of hearing criticisms of people who choose to only have one child. I think parents who have only one child are brave. And the environment thanks them.

    3 agree
  38. This whole discussion fascinates me… I'm the oldest of 4 girls, all about 2 years apart. Growing up with a bunch of siblings certainly had its drawbacks and its benefits, but I think it's pretty telling that I only want one child or at the most two.

    1 agrees
  39. De-lurking for this one.

    Thank you for this article! I am an only child (in a serious relationship with another only). A lot of what is written above rings very true with me.

    In addition to the caring for aging parents alone worry, I worry all the time about my future child (or children-haven't decided yet). I grew up with a huge extended family, and my cousins became like siblings. It makes me SO sad to think that my offspring will never have any aunts, uncles or cousins… Although i calm myself by remembering that in this day and age, we create our own families.

    Another thought that has been fairly controversial when i've brought it up in the past is that i simply don't believe it is possible to have the same relationship with your parents/child if there are siblings involved. I am extremely close to both my parents, and attribute much of that to being an only. I just can't imagine being able to have that same bond if there had been another. I'm not saying that other children aren't close to their parents, but i do think it is a special, different kind of bond.

    My two cents. Thanks for writing this!

    1 agrees
  40. This post was really hard for me to read, but enlightening. I've always been a sibling-elitist, with the opinion on onlies of 'Why would you do that to your child?'

    I have strong relationships with my brothers, and am close to a large extended family. I can't imagine not having that. I know not everyone gets along with their siblings, but I've always felt like you're depriving your child of the chance by having an only. (Also, the few onlies I've known have generally been awkward, selfish, and lonely).

    I say all that to say that while I still don't think I'll ever have an only, this post and the comments have opened my eyes to the fact that it's not a terrible thing, and as with any child, so much depends on the parents. So thank you.

    1 agrees
    • ValH, I've met many people with siblings that are awkward,lonely, and very selfish.

      2 agree
  41. This is such a timely article for me. My boyfriend and I just had a long serious conversation this weekend about our future family (we're in the practically engaged period). The whole serious conversation thing is pretty rare for us, so this was kind of a big deal. We anticipate getting pregnant in the next 2 years which would put me around 33. I had always said I wanted 2 kids and he had always agreed, but for the first time he mentioned that it just may not be the right thing for us from a practical sense.

    I'm an only child of divorced parents and I think I have a lot of those positive traits that have been mentioned. On the other hand, my childhood was very lonely. My mother worked a lot, and then for fun, she came home and worked some more in front of the TV. She didn't really have a great big circle of friends that we socialized with. I saw my dad every few years or so and didn't really have much else in the way of family around. I had always been determined that I would not put my child through that.

    My guy made a good point though; there would be a big difference between my childhood and our kid's. Even if for some reason something broke us up, he would always be there for his kid. And I think I'm starting to feel comfortable with this. Having two parents, or even just more available people around, would have made a big difference in my childhood. This may be the right thing for us.

  42. My mom has four siblings who are all still very close today. My dad has one brother and they are reasonably close. As an only, it sent me into paroxysms of jealousy hearing about my mom's wild and crazy adventures with her siblings. I knew I would never have that sibling culture that has remained to this day. No one who would remember "Hey remember when we were at that beach in Jersy in '72? And Jaws came out and no one would go swimming?" Hearing her nostalgia makes the ache of only lonley worse.

    Don't get me wrong, I love being an only child. But I wonder if that's in part because I have no idea what the grass is like on the other side of the proverbial hill. I was lonely growing up, and a little resentful of that. And as an adult, while I appreciate the benefits of the only child precocious upbringing, the benefits seem evenly balanced when I consider my social anxiety and weird hangups about other people. Being treated like a little adult meant I learned how to act like one, but it didn't MAKE me one. So I still always feel like a chameoleon at a party with my own age group, and just as much an imposter with my parents' friends. Learning what was expected at social functions with my dad's collegues meant I could play along, and over the years I've learned the rules and conventions of college student gatherings, but in both cases I still feel like I'm just playing along, like an anthropologist who has observed the rules but hasn't really absorbed them as a part of him or herself.

    1 agrees
  43. I really enjoyed this post because my partner and I go back and forth on whether we want more than one. He was one of three, but basically an only because of age difference and I have an older sister. He's all for an only, and I'm leaning towards two. Although we weren't always the best of pals growing up, having an older sister was and is great. Heck, she taught me to read. She was fiercely protective. She gave me my first box of condoms. Now we're best friends. And as our parents get older and infirm, we will have each other to lean on. She will be a constant in my life, even in a way that old friends are not… and fortunately, she ignored me enough when I was little that I developed a crazy only-child-style imagination.

    One other thing I'd like to note: having a sibling (or two or three) close in age is just as harmful to one's sense of sharing! There's always some other kids getting in your shit!

  44. I'm semi-close to my brother–we don't have a lot in common or talk frequently, but I think he's super awesome. But the main reason I want more than one kid is that my extended family is awesome. My mom has three siblings, my dad has two, and for some miraculous reason they all get along and our 20 person holiday dinners are the highlights of my year. Ritual and tradition is very important to me, and one of the values I want to pass on to my kids is the feeling of knowing you're doing something that generations of people you're connected to have done year after year. The feeling of coming-together from all over the country, because family is just that important.

    I've also found myself hanging out with a lot of onlies lately. My main social group is about half and half. And… yeah, all of the onlies are really glad to be onlies and wouldn't change it. But I do get the feeling that sharing, both things and attention, is this big mystery to them. It's not that they don't want to, it's that the give-and-take of it honestly doesn't make sense to them. So I actually feel like the awkward one sometimes, if I take a piece of food off their plate or poke them unexpectedly, and they look at me like I just kicked a puppy… :(

  45. I've never heard of a seven year old who wanted to be an only! We have a eight year old little boy. My son most certainly is not the typical only child as described in your article. He has always HATED being alone and was almost desperate to have company or a playmate all the time. Almost all of the strengths that only children generally have we were definitely not seeing in him at all. We finally decided to have another one last year and it's made THE biggest difference in him and our family. He's genuinely the happiest he's ever been, the least selfish he's ever been, and has grown up tremendously now that he has a bit more responsibility. He's even doing better in school! Weird, I know. I've grown to be a much better mom since I can't be as selfish my time and workload. I'm so sorry, I'll try not to be negative but having more the one has made our home a little slice of heaven vs. the struggle it's been for the last several years. I literally want to sing it on the rooftops it's made such a difference.

  46. I too was raised an only child! I am very perceptive to the advantages and disadvantages of such a life. As Ariel notes, only children have great imaginations. I had no choice but to develop a creative mind, constantly entertaining myself and reading up a storm. With one kid, my mom had enough money so that we could travel, and I have got to go on many great adventures that a larger family could never afford.
    There were plenty of downfalls too though- I was lonely a lot, and spent a lot of time playing video games and on computers. My mom worked a full time job, and that meant me alone in an empty house a lot, which was hard, but did also teach me to be ok with being by myself- a trait that is no doubt essential later in life.
    Sometimes I do think being an only child resulted in me not always able to interact easy with peers. I can be a little shy, and I find that sometimes I would be (and kinda still am) more comfortable and talkative with people older than me rather than my peers.
    Having all the attention to myself has made me stubborn and somewhat selfish, as my friends are quick to call my attention too. I think being an only child also made me insecure in some ways that those with siblings lack. Siblings are people you cannot get rid of- even when you hate them, they are blood and will always be there. There is a bond with them that is inescapable, and being raised with that I think results in a kind of confidence and security I lack. I've found myself very sensitive to my relationships, sometimes over-analyzing and I think to some degree that's from not having those strong sibling relationships.

    I don't really feel sorry for myself though. It wasn't easy being an only child. People complained about their siblings constantly when they were younger, but I remember always thinking they didn't really know the alternative. As a kid it never really mattered to me that I was an only child. Only know, as I get older, do I really wish I had been raised with siblings, because those connections are life long and so valuable as people get older.

    There are pros and cons to each, but for me personally, I think I want to give my kids siblings. There is a real loss I feel in not having siblings, and I don't want my kids to have to feel that.

    1 agrees
  47. I am the sister of a drug addicted mental health consumer. I have been "babysitting" my older brother for years, and at this point would have had a far smaller burden of caring for family if I were an only child. Looking after my folks when they age is going to be nothing compared to looking after my older bro. Have two or more because you want to, but not as some kind of insurance policy for them. It just doesn't always work out that way.

    4 agree
  48. I can see the point of all the arguments in this article but one. Being the 2nd, I was never an only so I guess I don't have the best objectivity…but I NEVER felt like there was less love or attention given to me because they had to give it to my sister, too. We both got all the attention we needed/wanted or more. We both got help with homework, praise, discipline… Maybe my parents really were super parents? It's not like either of them had more time to spend than usual…they both had full time+ jobs, they both had their own interests… My experience may be unique, but I feel like it is unfair to say that children with siblings automatically aren't "spoiled with attention". My mother and father could always make me feel like I was the center of their universe when I needed it. And sometimes, I think it was good to realize that I was NOT the center of the universe and that other members of the family deserve love and attention, too.

  49. Hi Ariel,

    My four year old son is an only. We plan on keeping it that way.

    A couple of things really stuck out for me in your article. 1 People are blown away during conversations with my four year old son. He talks just like a little man 2. We already started taking a friend for my son when we go somewhere fun (ie hockey game). He enjoyed it much more having a friend to share it with.

    I read in the comments section something about elder care. I have a younger sister with mental and emotional issues. Having a sibling will actually make it harder on me when my parents are older because I will then be taking care of my sister on top of taking care of my parents.

    I do feel guilty sometimes about the choice I have made. The other night I had my girlfriends two boys over. My son was cuddled up on my lap. While looking at the brothers sleeping together my son again asked for a brother or sister. I asked him why he wanted one. He said "So I have a friend". I told him that he has lots of friends. His reply "NO, one that doesn't have to come over". Broke my heart. Hopefully down the road he will look at being an only from your point of view.
    Thank you for your wonderful insight on being an only. You have a very lucky little boy to have such a wise mama.
    Have a beautiful day, Lesley

    • "One that doesn't have to come over." Aww! That *is* sad! And sweet! I remember feeling that way. What a cutie. Thanks for sharing this, Lesley.

  50. I wanted to add some prospective from a woman who's sibling is 4 years younger. As a woman who was an only for 4 years, I did learn how to play by myself and was shocked that Jon (my brother) needed someone to play with. I still have my Technicolor vivid imagination as well. I have always been able to talk to adults like an adult. Socialization was still a sticking point for me. With Jon being so much younger and our living out in the boonies I found it hard to learn how to play with others. This lack of socialization may also be rooted in my ADD so I’d not link the whole issue with being an only. I will admit that having my younger brother did teach me how to share a little bit better.

    So being the oldest of the family and having time as an only child I would say was a good experience.

  51. This was very interesting. I really think that every family works differently. I have two sisters and three brothers and even now that we are adults we hang out all the time and are really close. I love that I have five best friends forever as cheesy as that sounds. All of my siblings are super creative and imaginative. Growing up we spent time alone, together and with our own friends. I think being in a big fam. really helped me be tolerant, patient, and able to get along with anyone. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a pushover. We have really awesome parents so maybe that had something to do with our experience. My best friend who I grew up with just had her first baby and wants to have a big family because she is inspired by ours. I think it really does depend on the family. Having either one child or many children is not wrong if you are happy and it works for you. I think my magic number is three or four kids, but we’ll see.

  52. This is so weird because I was just thinking today about how being an only child has affected me. Ariel, I agree with so much of your post, especially being precocious (which is both a plus and a minus) and the sharing/generosity thing. I LOVE being an only child and revel in all the benefits. If I had an only, I would be totally cool with it–even a little excited.

    But here's the thing–I'd do the same if I had six siblings. You only know the one life you've led and it's easy to say "I hated my siblings, so only children have the good life," or, "I was SO LONELY and awkward–I wish I had siblings."

    I'm reading a lot of "I want my kid to have friends/support when life throws curveballs/someone to lean on when my partner and I are gone." Unfortunately, you can't know that that will be the case. Not all siblings like one another and people become estranged from their families for a myriad of reasons. If you want four kids, have four kids, but don't do it to give them friends and don't refrain from having an only just so s/he will have someone with whom to plan your funeral.

    The number of siblings a person has is one of many factors that goes into their level of satisfaction with their life. There are happy and unhappy singletons and happy and unhappy people with siblings. You're not going to mess your children up by consciously making them one or the other.

    (Also, I have to defend my singleton tribe and say that lack of ability to commit isn't a singleton thing at all–it's a result of parenting style. If the noncommittal singletons had six siblings, they'd all be the same.)

    1 agrees
  53. As an only I can definitely relate with all of this. I've always been able to relate better with adults than with my peers. Thankfully, now that I AM an adult it makes life much easier!

    The other day a friend told me that knowing me (and that I'm not *too* weird) has made her and her husband decide that having just one child would be a good option for them.

  54. I'm one of five kids (blended family — going from oldest child to middle child at the tender age of eleven = no fun), so I can't relate to the experience.

    That said, this: "Sharing space is another biggie. Only children get accustomed to having things just so, and this particularity with their personal space can develop into an acute sensitivity." My husband is an only child, and this is so true. For our first Valentine's Day he let me sleep in his room — and we were already sharing an apartment, and had been sleeping in my twin bed while his queen was unused. I could never adequately explain to my mother that he was just really particular about his space.

  55. I found this incredibly interesting.
    I am an only child, my boyfriend is as well (he has half brothers and sisters but has met them like…twice) and we've decided to have 2 kids, mostly because of the awful time I had as an only child.

    All the points; difficulty with sharing, precociousness, bringing friends on holidays…they were and are all very apparent factors of my life.

    However, I was mostly ignored by my parents, I had a child minder from a very young age (less than a year old) and was put straight into nursery at 2, then private school at 3. I barely saw my parents as my dad worked very late, as well as travelling abroad for work and my mum had a full time job.
    Everytime we went on holiday, I was outnumbered. On a 2 week vacation we would do 2 things I wanted, and the rest would be anything and everything my parents wanted to do.

    As I got older, everything that went wrong was my fault, I was constantly shouted at, forced to do better etc, and it really damaged me, considering I still rarely saw my parents due to work and when I did they were shouting.

    Obviously I'm a very special case, but I still long for siblings. Both my parents are likely to get dementia, and I have no idea how I'm going to deal with that on my own, especially as I'll probably be having kids around the same time (they had me very late)

    I had nobody to share my thoughts with once it reached dinner time, nobody to moan at about mum and dad, nobody to talk to about…kid stuff. I've grown up far too fast, I rarely had friends my own age as they were really immature (as far as I'm concerned) and I generally look back and have a massive disdain for my childhood.

    If you are going to have one child, please make sure you aren't doing it for selfish reasons.

  56. Some of the comments here are shocking. I would think Offbeat readers would be a bit more open-minded. I had no idea there was such prejudice against only children and the parents who choose (or maybe don't choose) to only have one.

    Let's see so far both the kids & parents have been called "selfish", only children are "weird" people who don't have any friends, & we don't know how to communicate. I had no idea people felt this way about only children. I guess I can only speak for myself, but as I said in a prior post, I'm a very extroverted & open person. If anything, I'd say my friendships are very strong & deep because I treat my friends like family & take those relationships very seriously.

    • Hey Stefanie,

      I totally, 100% agree with you about the comments, and I apologize for not getting rid of some of them sooner. I am a big supporter of open communication and letting people voice their opinions, but Offbeat Mama is not, and will never be, a place to name call or condemn/ridicule others for the choices they are making for their families (family size) or the choices that were made for them (ie, their parents only having one child). Our goal with Offbeat Mama is for it to be a place where everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, family size, ETC. can find support–NOT to name-call or label others as "weird" or anything similar.

      So I'm going to go through and find the particularly bad threads and get rid of them. Again, I'm sorry it even got to this level.

      Stephanie

  57. I am an only child also, and for the most part i have to say i have reaped the benifits…i was spoilt (i do actually have 3 half-brothers but never lived with them) but i must say there is one downside which i dont think you covered in your epic post of only child awesomeness….

    Being an only child of a single parent SUCKS… Its puts an awful lot more strain on the relationship and can be difficult.
    However i was lucky in the fact i developed an obsession with drama/theatre from a young age and so i have always been a social butterfly….something which probably comes from being talked to as an adult from a young age!

  58. I'm the youngest of two and so is my husband. To steal an idea from Ariel, I think its AWESOME! Its sort of funny reading through these comments – of course the decision to have additional children has to take in to account the needs of the existing child or children, but I've always thought of my older brother as the practice child. 😉

    Neither of us really liked or were liked by our older siblings (who were both always onlies that got stuck with us), but as adults both he and his brother and me and mine have come to form a great appreciation for each other. And all the stuff they put us through as children has only made us stronger now.

    We also share some character traits that I think are great, like an ability to go with the flow, and a sense of the needs of people around us. I too was precocious and good at communicating with adults, and my husband was and is highly creative and imaginative.

    We've discussed having two – the bigger question for us is how much space in between? My brother was a year older and his was five, and I think we're thinking three might be just right. But I agree the poster who said "I can be a great parent to one or a mediocre parent to two" had it just right – if we have two, it will be a decision based on whether or not we can enough love and energy for everyone.

  59. I am the only girl in a family of four, and the oldest by 8 and a half years. My brothers are each four years apart, so in a way we were all raised as "onlies" – which is weird to say in a family of four kids!

    We're all fiercely independent, yet we are completely there for each other. My three brothers hang out with each other pretty often, and if anyone needs anything, we know we can call one another.

    My oldest younger brother and I live less than a mile apart, but only see each other at most once or twice a month, and call each other even less often. However, we shared a car for a little more than a year – he works at night, I work during the day, so it worked out pretty well.

    I see my youngest brother a lot more frequently – I don't have a car right now, so I use his while he's at work on Saturdays, so we see each other about once a week. We also text or call each other a lot more than the other two and I.

    I loved being an only, and I love being the only girl in the family, but I also love having my brothers – for me it's the best of all worlds!

  60. I am an only child, and I will only have one child, and I could not a agree with you more. I will admit, when I was young all my friends had older siblings so I would wish on every star and ask Santa every year for a big brother (which later turned into big sister). Looking back, I am so glad I was a only.

    I think I am very generous as well, but stay the hell away from my space. I don't share covers, don't touch my dinner, and yes while I do have gum in my purse, it is for me and not you.

    In terms of socialization, I was pretty isolated for the first 5 years of my life. I was not only an only child, but I was an only grandchild on both sides of my family for the first 16 years of my life. Now I am a single on one side, with a single cousin on the other. My parents friends all lived far away, but I took all kinds of classes, like dance and sunday school.

    When I started Kindergarten, I had to be forced to do activities by myself, like painting, which was required for evaluation at my school. My parents still love to tell the story of how when my teacher told me that I had to go paint a picture to take home, I looked up at her and very solemly said "But Mrs Perry, why would I do something by myself at school? I can paint at home. I don't have other kids to play with there. I have to play with my friends at much as possible here because they don't get to come home with me"

  61. i can't help but notice that people seem to be biased towards how they were raised – in this as in most things! habit is amazingly comforting. while my girlfriend hasn't talked me into kids yet, we are both in firm agreement that there would be two of them, just like we each had a brother. i've noticed it's a common trend.

    on the flip side of your article: i forgot how to be alone as soon as i grew up, what with roommates and all – and, man, *not* being the center of the universe has its perks too (just think of all the things you can get away with while your big bro is getting in trouble! 😉

    • "people seem to be biased towards how they were raised"

      I'm not sure I'd agree — I know plenty of folks who HATED the way they were raised (singleton or not) and therefore chose the opposite. :)

      1 agrees
      • Then they're either biased towards or against. "This didn't work for me, therefore I cannot imagine it works for everyone" is as biased as "The way I was raised worked out awesome for me, and therefore will be awesome for my kid(s) too!"

  62. I loved this post! It actually made me want to squee in delight as to be honest, it was just so relevant! As an OBT member, with a wedding in 2 years and currently childless, I cannot give an opinion as a parent, however I can contribute as an only child who was surrounded by siblings.
    Now, I know this may sound confusing, so a bit of background may be necessary. Essentially (I would love to go into more detail but there just isn't the room!) my parents were both married before, had entire families, then shock horror, had an affair (being the by product of that and dealing with the attitude of half siblings is for another post I think) and I was born. Due to various reasons, my parents never got a chance to have the children with them so essentially, I was the only child with siblings.
    As stated in your post, I was taken to adult only events all the time, I had to learn to interact with adults as to be honest? my life would have been very boring and lonely if I hadn't! I can honestly say I had the best of both worlds, siblings when they came over (which sadly, was not as often as my parents would have liked) but also I had to learn to stand on my own two feet. I definitely wasn't "isolated" as some anti-only child people may claim, I went to a regular school from the age of 4, so did have the "normal" childhood socialisation experiences (my best friend has been my best friend since the age of 6 months!) but I also learnt that hell, I am quite an interesting person and you know what, my own company is actually kinda fun at times :) To cut a long post short, do not panic if you are a parent and only want one child, the kid will grow up to be awesome, confident and, the most important of all….NOT emotionally stunted in anyway by being an only child…however she/he may end up talking to themselves like I do but who said that was ever a bad thing?!

  63. I am the oldest of 4 siblings and we grew up on 10 acres in the middle of nowhere. Even as adults, we are extremely close, so when my daughter was born and I realized that I loved being _her_ mom but couldn't imagine having another kid without also having a nervous breakdown, I felt really uncomfortable for a while. I finally realized that a second child was not like a puppy; I couldn't go out and get one just to make my kid happy. I hate the idea of my girl being lonely, but the flipside is, as you say, that she knows how to amuse herself and is actually an incredibly confident, social kid who makes friends easily.

  64. I LOVE THIS! But we never took a friend on vacation, so I don't have that experience, and my vacations were still good (but I was also single parented since 7, so maybe that matters).

    ALSO, it's easier to vacation with one age of child–my cousin is dealing with a youngest who is just now old enough to appreciate Disney, but an oldest who is now too old to go during the off season (school-aged).

  65. I'd like to point out that all of those awesome qualities are not mutually exclusive to only children. My mom got saddled with boy-girl twins when I was four. Now that we are all sort of adults (I'm 21 and my sibs are 17) not only do we all possess those qualities but none of us fit into the standard "oldest, middle, last" stereotype. I think it has more to do with the parents fostering the uniqueness and individuality of their children than it does with how many you have.

  66. I loved this post! Growing up in a family of 7 kids, I just wanted to add that sharing/being a good roomate/being sociable and so on probably has more to do with education than number of siblings.
    From a very young age we were taught to fight for our stuff and our space and I became the WORST sharer ever! My parents encouraged "private property", for example when my dad's buisness soared they built a house with a room for each kid.

    My boyfriend, on the other hand is an only kid but was raised to share everything. He co-slept with his grandma for years, had dogs sharing his naps, food and toys(!) as well as awesomely welcoming parents for his large group of friends. At my house, there may have been 9 people but our house was closed-off from exterior life and we were very very shy with strangers practically adulthood.

    Whatever number of kids I have, I just want them to be open to others and know they live in a safe, welcoming house. Sense of community is not in the numbers but in the atmosphere!

  67. I'm an only who's not an only in a couple of ways. My grandparents adopted me when I was a baby (both married and divorced multiple times = multiple children), essentially giving me 6 new "siblings" (aunts and uncles) who were all much much older than me (16-37 years). I don't speak to many of them now.

    When my grandparents adopted me, it was common knowledge that all of their children would get a certain something especially set aside for them when the time came that they would pass away. Except me. They knew that I would still be young when this happened and all the other kids were settled in their lives and were financially sound, married, out on their own, etc. I was to get everything they owned except for what was set aside for the others. My grandma died when I was 13, and my grandpa, 2 weeks before my 18th birthday. Since then, I have been asked for loans of all kinds from one sister, completely ignored by another who is upset I "took her inheritance" (even though she is VERY well off with the man she married), been used by the first sister against her brother and vice versa when I mentioned I wanted to sell my grandparents' house. It is INSANE. They all know I have no rights to any monies/property until I turn 25, but they still ask, sneak, and use. I would rather have been given nothing but the title to my car in my name, than put up with all the crap.

    But even after all that, I definitely want more than one baby. In fact, I want LOTS. My husband and I have agreed on 6 =) I would even like to look into adoption because I'm so grateful for what my parents did for me, and I would love to do that for some little ones who need a momma and daddy.

  68. I have one sister. We are about two and half years apart. My mother left us when I was nine. We were then raised by our father. I helped to show my sister how to be a girl. I guess in a way I helped raised her. It was an odd thing when my dad decided he wanted to have a live in girlfriend. I was used to having the kitchen a certain way. We had a routine. She came in rearranging my kitchen, redoing our house. I was crushed. The way she talked to my sister made me want to slap her across the face. She considered my sister dumb I guess. I have no clue. It was an awful relationship and it ended after about a year and half later. My dad started immediately dating someone else. I was skeptical. How could you go from one to the other so quickly. The woman he was dating had a child. She was an only. At that point, I was about fourteen. I was set in my ways. His girlfriend understood my boundaries. Yet, I had difficulties with the her daughter. She was spoiled and she had both of her parents. She was not grateful for having both her mom and dad supporting her. This fact made me not want to associate with her. The bond between my sister and I was pretty strong. My dad and the girlfriend ended up getting married the summer before my sophomore year. My sister and I experienced the same things during those awkward step-family dinners. I am glad she was there for me. My step sister and my sister are six months apart. They know the same people and enjoy a lot of the same things. She is now 15 and I am now 18. Our bond is a little different. She is experiencing a world completley different from mine. I go to school. I go to work. I have bills to pay. I vote. I know about that awkward time. Yet, she refuses to listen to a source of knowledge. I will openly admit, I do not know everything. I am learning. I read. I learn. I mess up. I learn. I would love to share this knowledge with her yet, she refuses to listen. To sum this up short, I love my sister. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be an only child.

  69. As a person who often wished they were an only child, a pregnant lady who hopes this is her only child, and the daughter of a person who thinks only having one child is selfish and self-serving, thank you. I can't wait to show my mom this article.

    **Just wanted to add that I did have a younger brother growing up. We NEVER EVER got along and spent most of our childhood dispising eachother. Infact, when I was 2 and my mom announced that she was having another baby, I threw a colossal tantrum and begged her to "take it back". I have ALWAYS enjoyed my privacy, and interaction in an adult manner, even as a child. Not everyone loves having siblings. I sure didn't.

  70. This was awesome, thank you. My son is and will probably stay an only child. My Husband is an only child, I have 1 younger sister. All of my friends are popping out baby after baby and asking me why I'm not having more.

    When I was pregnant with our son a family member said something we will never forget. She asked if we planned on having more and we said we weren't sure, probably not, and she said WHY BOTHER, as in why bother having a child if you aren't going to have more then one.

  71. I think you may have just thoroughly convinced me to have an only child. I am an only child (of divorce, so my childhood was slightly less fun than yours) but looking at all my friends (I am literally the only child I know. My FH is the 6th child out of 8.) I realize how different I am from them. For instance, I love reading more than anyone else I know. I think this has to do with the being expected to be a little adult. I adjusted much better than siblings I know whose parents got divorced. I have a broader imagination for sure. I am so much more independent than even my FH who is basically the least favorite of all the children, so in a sense sort of an only.

    I remember my mom telling me how people would comment on my good behavior when I was a small child at weddings and such, when all the other children were screaming and running. I don't know whether this has anything to do with being an only, but I never got into alcohol, drugs or sex as a child, I honestly think because I didn't have anything to rebel or protest against. I was simply allowed to be me. I was very happy for a long time. And I still virtually am because I know how to entertain myself.

    For the longest time I wanted two children so, in theory, I could have the best (and worst) of both worlds, but now I almost feel like since I was so happy as an only (I am the best snowflake EVAR!) and Justin was so unhappy as a sibling… perhaps the compromise is creating another only… And he or she can have furry brothers and sisters. :)

    BTW, you are TOTALLY right about the sharing thing. My mother ran an in-home daycare and I never was able to share well, and am even worse about it now. Generosity, I've got that down, sharing, not so much.

    (Sorry this is so long! I think I just had a breakthrough.)

  72. I grew up an only child, and I remain my mother's only child although my father (whom I didn't meet until adulthood) had other children. Now that I am seriously considering getting pregnant, I am firm in my belief that I DO NOT want an only child. I truly envy the close sibling relationships that many people have. Yes, some siblings turn out to be douches, but overall most people seem happy to have them around through all the stages of life. These people remember you and know you in a way even the closest friends can't. When my husband's grandmother was dying, I felt bad for my only child mother-in-law trying to care for her without the support of people who understood the loss she was feeling. One day I will be in that position as well and don't want it for my future children. All of the positive(and negative) attributes for only children are still possible with siblings around.

  73. I definitely agree with all that you said in the article about being an only. When you talked about the parents talking to an only child as an adult and treating them like that, I saw myself so clearly. Adults were always amazed with my verbal skills when I was younger, but my dad was a stickler about me being a "big girl" and asking properly for anything I wanted.

    I must say at times my social skills do need work. I am a nerd who loves being by myself, even though I love being around people. I can still be very shy at times, but somehow I turned out "well adjusted".

    I remember in college a friend of mine asking why I never talked about my siblings. He didn't believe me when I said I was an only child. He maintained I was a spoiled rotten brat with a chip on my shoulder that I was better than everyone else. While I have met some other only children like that, I find it is the youngest child who is most like that.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Gotta say: some "friend," who'd call you a spoiled brat with a chip on your shoulder! We meet the weirdest people in college. They're not all friends, unfortunately. If you're still friends with this person, I'd call it an act of charity. Also, interesting assumption that someone should talk about their siblings. People in college often want to explore new identities, without the burden of people who see them through the lens of old friends and family. Even people with siblings may not talk about them enough that it rises to a level of being noticeable. In fact, I can't think of any adults I know who talk about their siblings that much. It almost sounds like this person knew you were an only and just wanted an opening to make this insult. Sorry if I'm misjudging your friend based on this comment. But it was WACK.

      • Ooops! Sorry about that! My friend didn't call me that. He meant that most only children he had met were that way. He thought I was too "normal" and "well-adjusted" to be one. He just thought I didn't get along with my siblings.

        Sorry for the confusion!

        1 agrees
        • Aha! Well, that is a much better thing for a friend to say. :)

  74. I am a 56 year old only child. Being an only child rocks! You have privacy, time to spend with your parents. Adult conversation with parents, not childish gibberish with inane siblings. No sibling rivarly! Peace! Peace! I would have it no other way! Amen!

  75. I loved being an only child. But I am now married to another only child, and that was…a little difficult. Sharing space? We've lived together for 6 years and it's STILL an issue. Giving? Yes. Sharing? Nope. I often buy my own food so that I don't have to food race my husband.

    We haven't decided about kids yet, but if we have ANY, we'll have one. And then we'll be a genetic island all alone in a world of people with siblings.

  76. I was an only child and though I didn't really think much of it now I see my husband and his brother and wish I had that sort of closeness with someone. Neither me nor my husband are very social beings and his brother is his best friend. It's of course very nice to see but I am envious.

  77. I'm an 'effectively' only — my step- and half-sisters are 13 years younger and we never lived together. I envied children with siblings their built-in posses, but sharing my mother with some interloper was out of the question and I told her as much. I was definitely imaginative, bookish, and preferred the company of adults, and do think onlies have it pretty great in a lot of ways. The two reasons I'm considering having a second child are that I don't want my child to have to face the burden of elder care alone, and that as older parents I know we will die relatively early in her life, and a sibling is the next-closest thing to a parent. The problem, of course, is that you never know what sort of relationship your children will have. My partner and his sister are extremely close and I would just love for my child to have a relationship like theirs. My mother and her sister, not so much!

  78. I'm 34 and pregnant with my first child and since I'm approaching the fabled 35 mark, already we've had questions about if we'll have more than one. My grandmother, in particular has said "Oh, you don't want an only child," like it was some strange whimsical notion. She had two children, and both of her children had two kids as well. But I really like the idea of dedicating our focus to helping this child become the best person he or she can be without having to divide our attention. My opinion could change after we have the baby and get a chance to see what it's like to raise a person, but for now, I think helping to make one great human being means the most to me.

    That said, my husband is an only child and one of the drawbacks is that even though we both would love to move to another state, we feel obligated to stay near his parents since they are getting older and we want them to be involved in their grandchild's life. Then again, I have a brother who is 13 years older than me and we are both struggling with what our obligations are to our mother, who has no retirement savings, is living on a fixed income and has health problems and who we both have a difficult relationship. I love my brother and am grateful to have him in my life, but I don't think either of us ease the burden for each other…we just have each others backs in a dysfunctional scenario.

    1 agrees
  79. . . . or they'll hate each other, or it'll be something in-between, or two or three of them will love it and one will feel picked on and vengeful. . . etc. I'm sad that your only-child-hood was sad. It sounds like your parents had something to do with that–and they still do. It sounds like you have responded by creating a loving home with many kids. That's truly great.

    Some onlies loved being the only, and continue to. I've had it both ways, having had half-sibs. I could tell you which I prefer, but you can probably guess!

  80. I just want to add my vote. I am an only child and I hate it. Sure, there are advantages and I know that having multiple children is not an option for everyone. BUT, I hate it. I could never do that to a child of mine.

  81. I'm a triplet. I don't even know where to begin explaining the problems there.

    I still plan to have at least 2 children – in an ideal world, I'd have twins, because all I've learned about age gaps is that there is NO good age gap. At least with a set of twins, I'd know what to expect.

    Protip: don't tell them which one's eldest. Even better, avoid finding out entirely. You will treat them as 'eldest', 'middle' and 'youngest' whether you mean to or not – and that shit's fucked up, man!

    1 agrees
    • Woa interesting point about birth age! My identity as oldest is so there it would be interesting to have found my own or somthing like that…

  82. My childhood was… varied, for lack of a better term. I lived with my mom and grandparents until mom had a baby when I was 5. I lived with two older step siblings and a baby sister for a few years, then I moved in with Grandma, so it was just me and her for a few years until her death. Then I lived with my older step brother, and my four younger siblings (3 of which were 11+ years younger than me). Then my step dad took off, so i spent most of my teenage years being mom, while my mom worked. I'm now the oldest (my older step siblings live hours away, and my step dad never sees his kids) of six (new yonger step sister when my mom remarried) and aunt to one amazing new little boy.

    That ridiculously lengthy explanation aside, I loved the years I lived with my grandma as an "only child". The relationship I had with her is probably the most defining part of my life so far. I was incredibly blessed, but I think that was more about knowing HER than being an "only" child. My relationship with my siblings, who've been through my dad's abandonment, house fires, foreclosure, poverty… just growing up in general; I wouldn't trade that for all the attention and money and fancy vacations in the world. Maybe because I played the mom role with them for a while my view is slightly less sibling-like, but they are the greatest, most amazingly infuriating, funniest kids I've ever known. I know not everyone has that relationship, but I'm very glad that I do. IF I have more than one child (I'd be happy with just one, as well) I hope they have that relationship with each other. If I only have one, you'd better believe they'll have 900 cousins to pester anyway!

  83. I'm expecting my first child and we're thinking about it being our only. I'm the youngest of 3, and I do love my brothers, but I much prefer spending time alone and imagining than I ever have playing with others. And when I do, I prefer small groups. So my unborn child's socialization isn't a huge factor to me. It's more about committing to a decision and not turning 50 (I'm 34) and thinking, oops, wish we'd had one more!

    I laughed at your inability to share. The hubs and I share everything – meals, wine, food, the 1 car we drive, time, chores, etc. But there are nights I say, "If you want some ice cream, get your own, I don't want to share this." Boundaries! I think we can teach our child those virtues ourselves.

    The travel aspect worries me a bit, we want to go on month long stints various places. But that's what summer camps and art classes are for, right?

    I love how positive you are about the only child phenom and its many benefits, these types of posts are hard to find!

    1 agrees
  84. I used your altered image in my own blog post today which is on the subject of becoming an only child as an adult. I love the image…thx :)

    I must say that you've described my 17 year old only child to a tee. My life has been enriched by the many wonderful friends that have 'tagged' along with her over the years…especially her long time (since 4yo) bff (she is like my honourary daughter…I have been asked many times how old my children are when taking them out together even though they look little alike!).

  85. I am from a BIG litter myself and was devastated when I learned my baby would be an 'only'. As a child and in my work life I had a weird knack for picking an only child within the first meeting. This wasn't because of anything overly negative (although sharing thing was dead give away haha) it was just a huge invisible barrier of DIFFERENT-NESS. I remember thinking 'Woah whats there deal? Ohhh an only child.' It was just you just couldn't get more different from me then that!

  86. Where to begin.

    1. Only children are precocious: I learned to read at the age of three and, according to my parents, never talked "like a kid". I read so much that I imitated the things the adult characters said, which apparently resulted in me sounding like a very small adult a lot of the time.

    2. Only children are more comfortable with being alone and more imaginative: I spent hours and hours by myself, either outside making up games involving the trees and the yard and my cat, or inside, creating an entire world with my toys that I later tried to write a novel about.

    3. Only children are the center of their parents' universe: I never once felt like my parents had to divide their attention at all. I grew up knowing exactly how much they loved me because they showed me every day. I was independent enough to not feel slighted when everything wasn't all about me.

    As you may have guessed, I am not an only child. My older sister is in fact the one who taught me to read at the age of 3. She is also my best friend, far closer than I could ever be with anybody else. We grew up quibbling and pushing each other and yes, competing and it was the best thing I could have had as kid. We forced each other to grow and think in ways our parents couldn't. Plus, I've never had the sharing issues.

    I love most of what Ariel writes but this post really got my hackles up because it is terribly dismissive to the advantages of having a sibling and pretends that the advantages of being an only child are impossible for those with siblings to attain.

    I'm not saying that all children MUST have siblings. I'm just saying that I think this presents a one-sided view of the matter. Ultimately every family is different and what works in one isn't necessarily what works in others.

    3 agree
  87. Wow…It never occurred to me until now that I was the only one whose parent let me bring friends on vacation with me! I was also the only, only child of my friends so that makes a lot of sense lol.

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  88. I had the best of both worlds – I'm an only, who grew up next door to my two cousins, both around the same age as me. We had a combined backyard with a patio, pool and swing set that both families shared. I had my mom all to myself whenever I wanted to, yet still had "siblings" wandering in and out of my house whenever they wanted to.

  89. The main reasons we are having 1:

    – having 2+ is more time consuming and expensive. (more time spent helping with homework, more maternity leave, less accumulated leave, less work flexibility/ options, more stuff to clean up, more food to make, more children to buckle in the car, potentially needing a bigger car/house, more doctor, childcare, school, dental fees, travel etc… more logistics, rivalries, less parent time potentially because we would have to make more money to provide for 2)

    – They might not get along anyway. Why have a sibling to potentially provide your child with a friend? They can pick their own. A sibling doesn't guarantee anything. Plus I'd like to provide my all to one. With one I can still work full-time instead cycling down to part-time or stay at home mother like so many others around me. I've watched make the sacrifice or my partner can work part-time or I could without a huge sacrifice. I can juggle work, travel and parenting in a balanced way. With two I couldn't.

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  90. as a single mom of one teenage girl – I LOVE THIS POST !!! It's true, it's candid and it ROCKS !!!

  91. Although it was interesting to hear your views on being an only child, I don't think your conclusions (pro and con) apply to onlies across the board. I was not an only child, yet ALSO wished I could have brought my best friend on trips, not just have my pesky sister there. Alas, my parents never thought of that. How about the fun of kids meeting other kids to play with on vacations? Your point about onlies having to get used to going to adult functions…isn't that a little selfish on the part of the parents? Occasionally we'll take our son to gatherings where it is all adults and I'll say it worked better when he was younger. Now he's an older kid and no, has not gotten accustomed to it, now he'd rather just not go, and I see his point. All parents of onlies aren't living in a secluded, adult-only world that your parents seemed to prefer. We actually attend more family type events with families we've known awhile and he gets plenty of time around other kids. I do know other onlies and I don't see that they have a problem with sharing, space or anything else. My son and his best friend are practically joined at the hip and are always swapping and sharing stuff. I personally feel that kids WITH siblings have a much harder time with sharing as they are always forced to share and are resentful of it. I know I was!

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