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What is it like to be an only child in the family? Some “only’s”, who are now adults, talk about growing up with no siblings.

“No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world”, Aristotle once said. However, even by sacrificing everything in the world, the situation of being an only child in the family is not going to change. Siblings can be annoying, ‘tease-warts’ and just downright mean at times. Still having them is better than being alone, isn’t it? A crash of responsibility over the parents after a certain age, more familial duties and yes, loneliness of course, are just some of the things that an only child might be facing in the future.

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What being an only child feels like

theAsianparent spoke to two women, Yvonne Pok and Ann Miller, on how growing up without siblings was and how that has an effect on the relationship they share with their parents.

Being an only child

Yvonne Pok, 24, an undergrad, remembers her childhood being extremely lonely. She begs to clear the stereotypical thought that the only child is usually given a lot of attention and spoilt rotten. “It was never that way for me. Instead, I had a lot of expectations to meet and it became stressful, especially in my teens,” recalls Yvonne. To compensate her loneliness, Yvonne made up an imaginary friend, who was the same age who gradually lapsed into her imaginary twin sister. She remembers looking out for this imaginary sister and reading stories to her. Yvonne has already given up idea of ever having a sibling. Her understanding of her parents’ choice of having only one child is because they are workaholics. “My workaholic parents were this way before my birth and after my birth! And as bizarre as it can be, 24 years has scrambled past and they are still the same workaholics!” Yvonne says with a sigh.

For Ann Miller, 25, a church worker, being an only child was an unexpected occurrence when her older brother passed away in 1980. She grew up without knowing her older brother, except stories of her brother filtered through her parents and relatives. “It was difficult because I wasn’t really an only child. I had a brother. I had his toys and clothes to remind me he was around before me! Knowing I had a brother and not being able to ever meet him, has to be harder than not having a sibling at all,” laments Ann. Ann also recalls that no amount of attention could make up for the loneliness she felt especially when seeing cousins and friends strengthening their relationships with their siblings.

Life of an only child
Both women remember growing up being rather quiet. As children, both were shy and never said much. “I remember keeping my thoughts and feelings buried within me because I didn’t feel my parents would want to hear and I didn’t really want my friends to know about them. I guess having a sibling would have given me an outlet to unleash everything rather than unhealthily live with them,” ponders Yvonne. For Ann, setting most of her thoughts on permanent quarantine was almost like a therapy. “I could visit my ‘thought place’ whenever I wanted to. I felt safer just leaving them in a dark corner of my mind. But of course, having a sibling would have been like having a matron for that quarantine ward, where only my sibling and I would be allowed!” smiles Ann.

When it comes to the topic of sharing while growing up, both women seem to differ on it. For Yvonne, sharing came naturally as she had many cousins whom she would meet during festive periods. Eager to share her toys, Yvonne remembers letting her cousins play with everything even if the toys were new. “My mother’s big family gave me lots of opportunities to practice my sharing skills,” laughs Yvonne. For Ann, on the other hand, sharing was not something she enjoyed. “I think I grew too attached to the thought that everything was mine and well probably, was selfish as a child because of that,” muses Ann.

Yvonne and Ann share an extremely close relationship with their parents today and feel that perhaps being an only child in the family has strengthened that bond. Both women agree that being an only child has taught them responsibility, independence and maturity. Thus, perhaps being an only child is not as disastrous as it is cut out to be. After all as Henry Rollins, an American rock singer, once said, “Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better”.

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