Lots of people say things like, “I would never have just one kid. I could never do that to the kid.” Or, “I would never have just one kid. I don’t want to raise an only child.” They don’t think twice about saying these things, but I find them very hurtful.
I don’t actually. I just think they’re silly. People talk about only children as though being a little bit lonely is worse than, say, being molested by your older brother, or as though being a little bit self-absorbed is worse than, say, subjecting a younger sibling who trusts you to years of torment and cruelty. Only children are misunderstood, so I am going to explain us to you. And maybe that way you can avoid undue stress to your body.
–Only children don’t like being alone. This is a common misconception: people figure that just because we were alone a lot as kids, we like it. The opposite is true. We don’t like it, we’re just better at it. Or we have no alternative because we suck at being with people.
–Only children are indecisive. I didn’t even know this was an only child thing until a co-worker, who is engaged to an only, pointed it out to me. We never had to battle with siblings, so we are used to getting the things we want. But who knows what they want?
–Only children are only half with you. The other half is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Because we weren’t socialized the same way, we don’t have the same social instincts, and so more of it gets relegated to the intellect. That doesn’t mean we’re bad socializers, it just means we overthink everything.
–Only children feel shitty about everything. Or we don’t feel shitty about anything. Everyone says that onlies are assholes, so we either become acutely aware of when we’re being assholes or we stop caring altogether.
–Only children are ambitious. Another misconception about only children is that we’re entitled. We were entitled up to a certain point. Then we realized that the world wasn’t our parents, and that we would have to work really hard for its approval.
–Only children maybe actually do like being alone. Lots of things you do really annoy us and we don’t know how to handle that. Given the choice we would always choose to be around you, the same way you always choose the things you couldn’t have as a kid, but deep down maybe we actually want to be alone. We can’t really decide.
A parent might read all this and decide that having an only child is irresponsible, but I think that’s a little bonkers. Parents should stop worrying about weird minutiae like whether their kids will one day have a hard time choosing a restaurant, and instead just try to be good parents.