I’m an only child. (I have two half sisters, but we didn’t grow up together, so for all intents and purposes I was raised as an only child.)
There were definitely benefits to that. I’m very close to my parents and I consider them best friends. I can be real and honest with them in ways that a lot of people can’t be real with their parents. It’s really cool and I love that.
BUT – and it’s a BIG but – there are definitely downsides to being an only. For me, the biggest is feeling lonely without sibling relationships especially as I’ve gotten older.
When I talk to other adults who grew up with siblings – they have tons of stories, memories, inside jokes and really like second and third lives because of those relationships. They have people, besides their parents, who grew up with them and understand them in ways that only a sibling can.
I don’t have that and I think that can leave me feeling extremely lonely. I know there are onlies out there who might disagree with me. They could talk about their extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles or friendships they cultivated while growing up – the girl who became like a sister, etc.
I don’t really have that either. I do have cousins of course and both of my parents are from large families… it just always worked out that I was kind of left out.
On my mom’s side I was smack dab in the middle of all my cousins. I had 5 older cousins who were 8 – 12 years older than me, then I had 7 cousins who were 6 to 12 years younger than me. There I was – all by myself. I annoyed the shit out of my older cousins (I’m sure) and my younger cousins initially annoyed me. Two of my younger cousins, R and C, did become like sisters to me. Especially when I was in middle school, high school and college. I spent a lot of time with them and on my breaks home in college, we always had movie marathons and just a really good time together. However, they are older now – in college and graduated from college and life has taken each of us on different paths.
On my dad’s side, I had 3 older boy cousins and 2 younger cousins. They were all way closer in age to me, but they lived in Nebraska and I only really saw them once or twice a year. It made bonding hard and we never really crafted that cousin relationship…
So it’s been me. I’ve enjoyed family get-togethers and I LOVE my family so much – but I’m still missing that sibling connection that I think is so special and unique.
The loneliness seems especially hard sometimes because my parents are divorced. All the memories of us being the three amigos are beautiful and lovely – but that’s over. We can’t be that anymore and it’s not often that we all get to be together, just us three like it once was. I don’t wish they were still together; sometimes I just want to sit around together and relive memories that only the three of us shared. We had so many good times together and I treasure those memories.
Alone. Only I can treasure that.
It’s OK. I don’t often spend time thinking about this. It’s only in moments every once in awhile, when I’m already feeling lonely that I reflect on it. I will say this feeling makes me want to give my child siblings – to give him a friend to know and love for his whole life. I hope and pray that my (future) children grow to be best friends and share a deep connection that is separate from the one they share with my husband and me.
I’ve talked to people from big families and I’ve often heard them say, they only want to have one child. They felt that they missed out on participating in activities because there wasn’t the time or money. That’s hard too… I get what they’re saying, but I don’t think they appreciate what they have, but I bet they will someday. (I could be wrong – just the opinion of a lonely only. haha)
Regardless of my situation, I know I have a wonderful family and life. I am thankful for the relationships I do have and I am excited to keep developing friendships and growing my community to help me feel just a little less lonely.