Growing up with the question “How many siblings do you have?” was as much a burden to hear as it was to actually answer. I would always look down shyly and quietly tell whoever was asking that I had no brothers or sisters – I was, and still am, an only child. After hearing quite the shocker of an answer, without skipping a beat they would follow up with an even more annoying inquiry and ask, “Aren’t you lonely, what’s it like?” which would leave me with no choice but to state the truth; that yes, sometimes it does get lonely, but it’s not all bad either. What irks me the most about the situation is that people would usually look at me with pity, as if they were suddenly seeing me in a completely different light. What is it that sets me an ocean apart from the other kids?
Not what you would expect
Since our childhoods are fairly solitary, only children are always stereotyped to either be spoiled, selfish, anti-social, and at times, all of the above. People tend to think that we’re used to getting our way, or that we don’t know how to share or socialize with the kids our age, but it’s actually quite the opposite; since we don’t have any siblings to fight or mess around with, the lessons of “playing nice” are even more strictly enforced to ensure our social adaptability. That said, we’re not really the introverted bunch either; it’s just that sometimes we don’t really know how to start the conversation, but when you do get us to talk most of the time, you wouldn’t be able to get us to stop. By nature, we’re friendlier than the average person, but only because we want to get out there and meet all types of people since we’re not as exposed to the same opportunities and social circles that those with siblings have.
Personally, however, it’s not about the stereotypes; it’s more about what I think my life would be like if I had a sibling. How different would I have turned out? Would I even still be the same person at all? I’ve always envied the close relationships my friends had with their brothers and sisters. I guess I’ve always wanted to have someone I could easily turn to in times of need, because let’s face it: parents, however loving and supporting they may be, won’t always fully understand what their child is going through. Sometimes you just need to talk or vent to someone close in age, someone who could have a better grasp on your situation. On the other hand, having grown up surrounded by adults we mature quicker too; and it’s both a blessing and a curse. While important life lessons are handed down to us earlier than most, it oftentimes isolates us from our peers, and we’re viewed to be know-it-alls instead.
However, it’s also important to realize that it’s not just the only children who suffer from the weight of society’s misguided presumptions; their parents take some of the brunt of the insensitivity and tactless questions and comments as well. My parents have had their fair share of, “Ang hina niyo naman,” or even, “Bakit isa lang anak niyo, di niyo na ba kayang sundan?” (Why only one child? You couldn’t handle another one?) To hear such crude remarks from people who had no idea what was really going on in my parents’ lives left them angry and heartbroken. When I was five years old, I was actually about to have a sibling, but unfortunately my mom had suffered a miscarriage and my dad was too afraid to try again since it could cause complications with my mom’s health, even losing her in the process. It was a chance that my dad was just not willing to take. Having shared that, most of the time it’s never the parents’ choice to have just one child, but merely the circumstances they had been given and have had to cope with.
Coming to terms
Growing up without siblings, I’ve had to rough it out every now and then. I’ve learned to look out for myself, and become independent and not rely on others for help. Yes, it’s been tough, but it’s made me a stronger person. I’ve long since been able to deal with the circumstances life has given me, and I’ve come to realize that alone time can be good for you too; it’s easier to self-reflect and become your own person that way. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being an only child, it’s that the term “siblings” can be used very loosely, as I consider my closest friends to be the brothers and sisters I never had. I know it’s still different from having the same blood running through your veins, but it’s the closest I’ll ever come to and I’ll take what I can get, since as they say anyway: No man is an island.