I’ll start with this– I have a lot to write about so I think this might be uploaded in several parts as I see fit. I write this not only for myself, but in hopes it might provide some insight for anyone who knows an ‘only’ or for parents of an only child.
I’ve had 23 years of experience being an only child (so far). My mother was pregnant with twins, one of them demised in the womb and the other that was born was a 7 lb 8 oz baby girl. I was alone when I entered the world, and on my certificate of birth I’m legally considered an “only child.”
For many, it is considered either a gift or a curse. In my case, I haven’t figured out which it is yet.
Being Hispanic as well as an only child made me quite the unicorn in my large family. In the Mexican culture, having a multitude of children has been the norm for generations. Whether it’s having 3 or 9 children, the house is always going to be full and noisy. It’s beautiful in its own way, being in a large family surrounded by relatives.
This way of living was not something I was used to.
I didn’t have to share my room with anyone. I had my own bed, my private bathroom and no one, this is important, absolutely no one else touched my toys. For a toddler, this perk was at the top of the list. My parents showered me with gifts on Christmas and all the other holidays too. I got boxes of chocolates and so many cards on Valentine’s day, Easter treats as far as the eye could see and on my birthday? It was practically a religious holiday for my parents. I had all their attention and anything that I wanted I got.
At this point, anyone would think that a child who was given so much would be a spoiled brat. This is the stigma all of us only children have to face, at any age. It’s something we will never escape; the misconception that all onlies are demanding, tantrum-having spoiled brats. Every time I meet someone new and they find out that I am an only child, the first thing that never fails to be said by them is “Were you a spoiled brat?” or “You must be so spoiled.” I could say no and explain to them why I’m not a spoiled brat, but I would turn blue in the face.
I never asked my parents for all that they gave me and did for me. They only have one kid and like any loving parent, they just piled on all the gifts and attention to the one outlet that they could, and that outlet was me.
I’m sure having an only child isn’t easy as most parents might choose to believe. Not in the sense that the child would be a handful, but having to deal with outsiders and their criticism.
I can attest that every time I was introduced to friends or coworkers of my parents, by my parents, they were always asked, “Oh, you only have one. Why?” I can still remember the patronizing tone of those people who look at having an only child as being inferior to having many children. I never understood this when I was younger. Excuse me, Mother of 5. I’ve been on the honor roll since grade school, won several competitions, dozens of awards and been accepted into private universities. What have your children done?
It upsets me when my mother is seen with contempt for just having one child. It doesn’t seem to phase her though, she lives by the saying “quality over quantity.”
If you have 1 or 5 children, the number doesn’t matter. What matters is the quality of love and attention they receive, that is what helps them as they grow into their own individual selves.
I thank my parents for investing so much time into my development; encouraging me when I needed it and giving tough love when I needed to learn a lesson. I don’t quite understand it yet because I’m still growing myself. But maybe if I have my own kid (or kids) one day, it will resonate.
If you enjoyed reading this, please let me know. I would like to make this a series if I can, because there is a lot to write about. Thanks so much for reading!