There are different reactions to this predicament – of being a single child to a set of parents. Some people feign pity because we don’t have anybody to share things with and we will grow up to become selfish and spoilt souls. The others envy us for we have no one to compete with, no one to share our parent’s affections with and all the attention and focus is and always will be on us, sometimes a little more than necessary. During the past few years, I’ve realised there are certain personality traits that more often than not, become synonymous with a single child. Of course, what I write here are not rules nor do they have any psychological backing. They are just this – observations.
I’ve found nearly all single children to be introverts. I suppose it’s because we spend an awful lot of time alone while growing up which always results in us trying to find ways to amuse ourselves. That’s why the imaginary friends, stories, doll houses, reading and talking to myself (yes, it’s different from the imaginary friends bit). Single children find it harder to mix with new people. At parties, we like to meld into the backdrop, hesitant and shy of being in the spotlight. We find it hard to be generous with our things not because we are selfish but because we don’t know whether the other will handle it carefully or keep it safe like we would. I find food to also be a main bone of contention – we never had to share our sweets, fries or ice cream unlike kids with siblings who already know they are going to get half of the whole or lesser.
Single kids seem to hate conflict and are more sensitive. I shy away from conflict actively, despite knowing I’m the wronged one. We have never been very good at displaying feelings, saying sorry and especially arguing about something. We are most likely better at writing letters or messages and hope that the next time we see the person, all will be forgiven without having to dredge up any of the awkward memories that bring a faint flush to our cheeks.
Single kids tend to be a bit less empathetic to family issues. I feel alien listening to sibling rivalries or the responsibilities that come with it. The older kid, more often than not is always blamed for the sins of the younger, they tend to blackmail and insult each other constantly and their sudden concern and unity when things are deeply amiss make me wanna scratch my head and give up. They call each other names, steal each other’s clothes, yell at each other and sometimes box, scratch, slap and I cannot comprehend the violence that comes with a sibling. For me, its far too much after being bought up in a quite household with two mature adults.
Which brings me to the next observation – a single child tends to grow up early. This is highly debatable because the oldest child in a line of children may have far more responsibilities than a single child ever would. Also, I think we don’t manage to grow a thick skin. Siblings with their constant banter and insults tend to cry less easily while we, on the other hand, are unable to take jokes made at our expense and we don’t like being laughed at. I suppose we tend to take ourselves way too seriously.
We are particularly bad at board games, video games or team games. Not because we cannot get along but I think it’s because we are strangely competitive and hate losing. I recall crying after I lost 6 times in a row to a mobile Ludo game. It was quite embarrassing. I didn’t play that damn game again but on the flip side, I think the attitude helps at work. We become strangely self dependant and tend to be natural at fitting into a office landscape.
We prefer being alone and actively work to get some space and me time. It comes with the territory. After growing up in a house that is quite and devoid of tantrums (except by oneself), we aren’t able to concentrate in spaces that are crowded or noisy. We need our quite corner away from mindless chatter and no matter how cherished the other person is in our lives, we need that person to step away for a while so that we can contemplate the greater mysteries of life (that’s all rubbish, we just want to hear our own voice in our head).
We are the focus of our parent’s attention and that may not necessarily bode well for us. It’s all right when we are young but once we hit our teens and we know we are doing things they wouldn’t really approve of, the thought of a sibling does pop up. Someone who would cover for us or do something worse than what we were doing or just generally making a nuisance or having board exams. Yes, those are times we wish there was a sibling to deflect attention from us. We also seem to become our parent’s identity. Our failure to get a face saving job, a decent education, a socially acceptable mate for life tends to become their failures. I know it’s true for all parents irrespective of the number of kids but we tend to be a little more micro managed because we are the only ones they can put their faith in. You see, they have no other ongoing project to fall back on.
Kids with siblings are better at taking feedback, more sociable and tend to have stronger family ties. Single children are more self reliant, introspective and sensitive. We can argue and hum haw our way to decide which life is better but both sets of kids wouldn’t really want it any other way than the current one they’re in.