Why only children are awesome

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Only Child Club Enamel Pin by Etsy seller PapaLlama
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.”

From your only child card by Etsy seller AlexNicolePaperCo

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.

Comments on Why only children are awesome

  1. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

    • “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. 🙂

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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… 🙁

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

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