My husband and I are both only children. It’s funny there are a lot of misconceptions out there about the personality and character traits of only children. Once my husband had a woman tell him to make sure he had more than one child “because”, she said, “only children are spoiled brats.”
Well I cannot deny there are perks of not having to share toys or attention. But that’s assuming you’re receiving toys and attention. A friend of mine who is also an only child had the misfortune of having two alcoholic parents. Most of her birthdays and major holidays either went un-celebrated or were painful experiences where alcohol played the priority.
I’ve had people tell me how lucky I was to not have brothers or sisters. However, I always hated being an only child. Both of my parents had several brothers and sisters and I had always wished for a sibling. Of course it’s human nature to think you want what you don’t have. What I did have though was lots of cousins. My cousins and I often got along much better than they did with their own siblings. In fact I had one cousin I was extremely close to. I recall having an argument with him one day in which he picked up a steel yard shovel and attempted to hit me over the head with it. I promptly jumped up and grabbed him by the collar at which point he released the shovel and grabbed me by my collar. We proceeded to dance around in a circle taking turns punching one another in the face never letting go of our shirt collars. Eventually my grandmother heard the commotion and split us up. She was probably the only person on the planet we were both scared of so we obeyed. I had every intention of killing him that day. And judging from the shovel, I’m pretty sure he felt the same. I imagine that’s the closest I’ll probably ever come to having a true brother.
My husband on the other hand loved being an only child. He was always allowed to have friends over and his parents doted on him as they felt he was the perfect child. Of course they didn’t have anything to compare him to so their judgment was slightly jaded. (Just Kidding, I know my husband and mother-in-law will read this so I tease.)
In reality though only children have several very positive traits. According to studies only children are shown to have a tendency to have a slightly higher self-esteem than children with siblings. Maybe that’s because we didn’t grow up with a sister calling us “ugly” as our daughters do. Now that may sound harsh but I’ve come to realize it’s an endearing term that they call one another and friends. Who needs enemies, right?
Only children are also show to have a higher academic achievement than others. Again this is statistically speaking and obviously my husband and I weren’t pooled for that analysis. Only children are shown to be more independent, more responsible, and overall just better looking than kids with siblings. Ok, I threw that last part in there. Mostly I wanted to point out that although we were both only children, we both had lots of friends and interactions with family to make up for the lack of sibling rivalry.
I should also mention there are also some negative traits that have been shown to exist. Only children can struggle in social situations. One website suggested making sure you socialize your only child as a solution. Really? As if parents with only children keep us locked in the basement like Sloth on the Goonies.
I actually had many friends growing up and was never locked in the basement. Ted Pillow author of the blog 21 Truths About Being An Only Child makes note of a study done by Granville Stanley Hall in 1896. Pillow states that the study called, “Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children” included a statement by Hall that read, “Being an only child is a disease in itself.” Ouch.
Regardless of all the heresy about only children there is one character trait that I have noted in my own life. That is the ability to or lack of ability to ask for help. Over the years we learned to be independent. At home we played by ourselves. (Well except for the occasional imaginary friend.) We learned to be our own cheerleader, our own encourager, our own critic, our own support system. Both my husband and I rely mainly on ourselves. We have a tendency to try to do it all and forget that there are other people out there willing to help.
We’re getting better at turning to one another, our family, friends, and our community. But it still sometimes takes almost a nervous breakdown before we realize, “Hey, maybe we should ask for help.” It’s not that we don’t think we need it. Or that we think we’re such wonderfully equipped individuals that we can do everything on our own. It’s just that we simply forget.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads; Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Lately we’re discovering how much we need others to help us in our lives. Whether it’s a friend to listen, a mentor to guide, or encourager to motivate, we need other people.
This verse reminded me of a time when that same cousin of mine was attacked by an older boy while walking home from school. That day, I was with him. As he proceeded to bully my cousin and physically attacked him pulling him into a headlock, I jumped into action. I beat him over the head with my metal Dukes of Hazzard lunch box until he gave up, he never bothered us again.
It may seem strange to talk about that here but the point is sometimes even when we don’t ask for help it can be obvious that we need it. So keep your eyes open for others who may need your help and be ready to jump into action. And please know, if you need me, I’ll have my metal lunch box at the ready.