Being an only child is a two-sided experience. It has valuable benefits but also hinders certain experiences. For me, I grew up as an only child in a single parent household, making my relationship with my mother closer than maybe those with larger families and two parents at home. Since it was just us two growing up, I needed to know how to do everything that comes along with survival at a young age. I learned how to do my own laundry by the age of nine, was able to cook decent enough meals for myself by the 6th grade, and essentially knew how to run the household on my own before high school.
This independence I gained while being an only child is one of the greatest things I have learned, but I still know there are things I have missed out on that I will never realize I missed out on. I will never know what it is like to have a brother or sister bond with another person. Although some friends of mine feel like they are my siblings, it is not quite the same. This is why I hold my friends even closer to my heart. They are my replacement family.
My grandpa had nine other siblings and my grandma had eight growing up. They both were raised in small southern towns with unusual names in flyover states on ranches or farms. Their siblings were essentially farmhands. The youngest ones dried the dishes, the middle children washed the dishes, and the oldest cleared the table every day for supper. They grew up on eggs, bread, beans, rice, and milk. One of my grandfathers’ siblings was actually sent away to live with another family to help around their household at the age of 14. This is why when I was younger, my grandparents used to tell me how lucky I was to be an only child, to be able to be the center of attention all of the time. But that is not what I see when I compare my family to larger families. I still see the same amount of love being shot across the table, the same amount of loyalty, and the same amount of laughs.
The thing I feel as though I missed out on the most was having someone to talk to about anything at any time. Not a friend, not a mentor, not a parent, but someone who was living under the same roof as you and being able to express your feelings to a brother or sister who most likely knows exactly what you’re going through because it’s happened to them. I didn’t have the brother who had my back and would beat up any boy who hurt my feelings or did me wrong. I didn’t have a sister who taught me the twists and turns of friendships and relationships. Even though I missed out on a few things, I feel like I have gained a lot in return. My independence has carried me well through the transition between high school and college. I enjoy my time alone where I can get to know myself through multiple creative outlets and lenses. I learned to make friends on my own which ended up working out very positively in my favor. Most importantly, being an only child has let my relationship flourish and grow continuously.