Well, Life Isn’t A Cake Walk For An Only Child

Posted by Rowena Samuel in Society
April 26, 2017

“You’re an only child! You are so lucky!”

I wondered why I was considered lucky, every time I heard this. Was I lucky because I was chosen by fate to have a lonesome childhood? Or was I lucky for having to shoulder the responsibility of supporting my family all by myself? Or was I lucky to experience enough loneliness to make up five imaginary siblings?

Sure, I was lucky enough to receive the undivided attention of my parents, so much so that I was not allowed to go anywhere outside my home. I was lucky enough to be pampered and petted till I received the title of a ‘spoilt brat’. I was lucky enough to have my own room and indulge in things I should not and might not have, if I had a sibling. Sure, I was lucky enough to get every chocolate and cake to myself till I finally weighed 83 kg.

When I was a child, I wished I had a sibling for company, just to be able to go out and play. All the other kids had a sibling to play with, who would also stick up for them while I would always be alone. When we moved to a new neighbourhood, I was shunned because my family’s traditions and beliefs were different. If I had a sibling, it would have helped me cope better.

All those things that people with siblings take for granted would awe me so much. I wondered what it would feel like to hear another person address my mother as mummy.  I wondered how it felt to share your possessions with another person. I wondered what it felt like to say, “This is my sister/brother.”

A picture of siblings in India. (Image Source: saintjean76/ Flickr)

I wondered so much about these novelties that I made up my own imaginary world with my own siblings and with every fantasy, the number would always increase.

As I grew older, being an only child became a burden. When my parents were sick, I struggled to cope with the fear of losing them. I missed the sibling who could have helped ease my loneliness and reassure me. Often, the four walls of my house would feel like a jail, and I its only prisoner. I wished I had another fellow prisoner to ease my captivity.

Today, I am in my mid-twenties and I still miss the sibling I never had. I still wish I had someone who understood my problems, my fights and disagreements with my parents and my family life. I still wonder what it would feel like to know that if (God forbid!) my parents passed away, there would be someone apart from me who would also lose their parents.

I am considered a loner who is spoilt, manner less, aloof and pampered. There are a plethora of adjectives that can be added, none too complimentary. When people hear that I am an only child, they immediately exclaim, “Oh, that’s why you’re like this!”

Pray, tell me, what am I supposed to be like? For those who are the only child in their families, is there some universally-agreed-upon pattern of behavior? Why is it that an only child is always considered to be spoilt, uncivil and weird?

A friend of mine once pointed out that those who are the only child in their families inherit everything from their parents. May I point out the downside to that perk? We are responsible to clear the debts and other finances incurred while acquiring the property.

“Parents of only kids can throw a grand wedding for their kids and will never have dowry issues.” On the contrary, the prospective groom’s family expects too much just because it is an ‘only child’.

“Only kids get better education opportunities and a better lifestyle.” Maybe so! However, it will be only us supporting our parents when they are old and grey.

I hate it when people judge me as incompetent because I am an only child. I hate it when people think I have had life easy because I am an only child.

Yes, I am a loner. I prefer being alone because I grew up alone. I see plenty of people who are not only-children but yet are loners.

Yes, I am not good at household work. That’s nothing to do with me being a spoilt only child. In fact, only children know how to do everything by themselves because at some point, they have had to maintain their house all by themselves in their parents’ absence.

Yes, I will have the burden of taking care of my parents and I cannot focus all my energies on my in-laws. But you know what? I don’t count taking care of my parents as a ‘burden’. It is the duty of every child, irrespective of their gender or number of siblings, to individually invest and support their parents in their old age. 

Having a sibling is one experience that I have been deprived of.  All I can say to those who do have siblings is that you have no idea what you have not missed out on. Yes, having siblings has its own problems and insecurities but being an only child is not easy either.

Many people opt for a single child in this generation for various reasons, many of which are valid. However, the experience of growing up with another child, engaging in sibling rivalry,  and learning to share your parents with someone else is priceless and can never be replaced.

The grass maybe equally green on both sides but the difference is you will not be alone in the pasture on the other side.