Have you ever wondered what makes you the person you are? Upbringing, experiences, interactions are some of the factors that come to mind. And of course, a whole bunch of factors contribute. But as I try to better understand myself; some of my formative traits, my choices in relationships and careers, even fears and insecurities that I haven’t quite been able to put a finger to; I find myself correlating it with the fact that I was an only child. And growing up as one certainly shaped my individuality to a considerable degree.
1. One Child To Many Adults
For a long time I was an only child not just for my parents, but for my grandparents, uncles and aunts on both sides of the family. I have one first cousin who’s 13 years younger. So for a large part of my life, I was one child to many adults. I got used to being the centre of attention. Maybe somewhere at the back of my mind, I started believing that I was special in some way. So I worked hard at school, pushing myself beyond any expectations that my parents had of me. In college, I chose courses and modules because they were considered hard, not because I found them particularly interesting.
It was only when I started working that it dawned on me that there is no Chosen One. I was just a drop in the ocean. And a drop by itself doesn’t mean much. True value comes from 10^25 drops co-existing to create the Ocean.
2. (Some) Friends Became Family
I suppose that a sibling is often the first close friendship you develop. Since I didn’t have that, every other friend I made became a brother or a sister to me. Emotionally speaking, this meant too close too soon. Showering love towards people I didn’t actually know so well meant that I made lots of friends over time.
But it also meant that not everyone I adored felt the same way about me. Not to that intensity and definitely not within the same time frame. Realising that took a while; and in the meantime, it just hurt.
3. Independent From The Start
As an only child, sometimes you feel like your team consists of you and – just you. My parents didn’t think about it his way, and tried hard to make me feel otherwise. But parents are still managers. They had a moral duty to steer me in the right direction when I went astray. And I wouldn’t have it any other way; they were just being good parents.
What it also meant though, is that from a very young age I got used to taking care of myself and doing things on my own. When I went for a fifteen-day long trek in the Himalayas at the age of eight, I wasn’t homesick. When I left to study in another country at seventeen, I didn’t need my family to help me adjust. I missed them dearly, and having them around made my day. But never necessary.
4. A Close Relationship With Parents
While I was my own team, my parents and I only had each other and ended up being extremely close. Almost no aspect of my life was hidden from them. If I was having a hard time at school, or if there was a latest crush, they knew about it. They talked to me about their lives too.
Our friendship has grown even stronger over time. As an adult, you’re able to see your parents as vulnerable humans who can make the same mistakes as you do, and fear the same things that you do. Realising this made us bond on a different level altogether.
5. Unable To Relate To Sibling Relationships
When my friends spoke about their siblings, I sensed a bond that I could never truly understand. They weren’t necessarily close. They quarrelled on the silliest of things: who gets the phone or TV, who opened the door for the mailman. Most of the time, I knew way more about my friend’s lives than their siblings did. But there was a certain degree of comfort they shared with each other that I don’t think could have come from a friend.