As my parents' one and only, I might be a little biased in thinking there are profound benefits of being an only child. I'm not going to say that I wasn't terribly spoiled (nor will I lie and say I'm not still spoiled), and I won't claim that I didn't occasionally clamor for a brother or sister, but on the whole I enjoyed and still enjoy being an only child. There are a variety of reasons, but most of them are less shallow that you might imagine – that is, they don't all revolve around the joy of knowing that I didn't have to share my toys and that all the presents under the Christmas tree were for me. No, there are benefits of being an only child that have nothing to do with superficial things, so it's something to think about when you're not sure if you want more than one child.
1. Close Parental Relationships
For me, one of the biggest benefits of being an only child has always been my relationship with my parents. Part of that comes from the fact that they're only twenty years older than me, but there's much more than that. I was a mommy's girl and a daddy's girl, and my parents never talked down to me. Although there were times, as a child, that my mom and dad were my friends, they were also my parents, always. They struck the perfect balance, so that I didn't get away with meltdowns, temper tantrums, and spoiled brat behavior. As I got older, however, and exhibited responsible decisions and good values, the seeds of friendship sown in my earlier years blossomed, so that now, my parents actually are my besties. I'd hang out with them even if we weren't related!
2. A Wild Imagination
Some people insist that only children are always lonely, but I never had that problem. When I didn't have cousins or friends to hang out with, my imagination kept me company. Whether I was losing myself in a book, playing with my imaginary friends (among them were Colonel and Creamy), or writing little stories and plays I then turned into soap operas with my extensive Barbie collection, I was always happy and occupied – and I really think it led me to my career as a writer. The same is true for only children the world over, I bet.
3. A Strong Sense of Self Esteem
I'm honestly not sure what it is, but although I was a chubby child who sometimes played coy, I had plenty of self confidence. Teasing didn't get to me, because my parents took every opportunity to tell me I was awesome. This sounds like bragging, for which I'm sorry because I really don't mean to sound like an arrogant little chit, but I felt awesome. I developed a good sense of humor, loved making people laugh, and did not let insults and mean comments hurt my feelings. That still holds true today, and I know I owe it to my parents. Again, I think this is probably a trait shared by many only children.
4. Serious Independence
As an only child, you don't have any built in babysitters or playmates. Oh, I had babysitters; we lived too far out in the middle of hoot and holler for my parents to let me stay by myself until I was well in the double digits. Still, you learn how to do things for yourself. I kept myself occupied when my folks couldn't play with me and when I wasn't hanging out with my pawpaw, I naturally did chores, and I always felt secure when I needed to rely on myself.
5. No Sibling Rivalry
To this day, the dynamic between my partner Heather and her brother still confuses the hell out of me. Growing up, too, I always saw sibling rivalry between my friends and their brothers and sisters. Some competed with their older siblings, while other expressed extreme jealousy of their younger siblings. I never had to compete with anyone, so I didn't feel any pressure – and I knew that my parents didn't prefer anyone else over me. Not that all parents of multiple children do, by any means, but many of my friends felt that way sometimes.
6. A Wider Circle of Friends
Since I didn't have any brothers or sisters, I had to find my playmates elsewhere. Only children learn to make friends so that they have people to play with after school and on weekends. Even if you're shy, you know that it's important to become friends with the kids in your class or your neighborhood, and I think it's sometimes easier for only children, because we value time spent with other children so much.
7. Nurtured Hobbies and Talents
Being an only child means that your parents are focused on you. They don't have to spread their attention around to other children. As a result, your hobbies and talents are nurtured and you're able to explore them. For me, that included writing, with my parents always encouraging me to create little worlds made of the written word.
I wouldn't change my upbringing for anything. Sure, my parents were sometimes overprotective, but I was never spoiled so rotten that I threw fits in public or expected things rather than being grateful for them. Being an only child resulted in an extremely close, loving, and fun relationship with my parents, whom I count among my very best friends, and it did wonders for my imagination and creativity. Are you an only child, or do you have siblings? Did you ever wonder if the grass was greener on the other side?