Growing up an only child has its perks. Namely, you don’t have to share. I’m not talking about sharing toys or snacks with other kids on playdates or at Gymboree. If the parents of an only child want to raise a tolerable individual, they’ll raise a kid who knows the importance of sharing. Only children, though, don’t have to share space. If you’re privileged, your parents probably have their own room. In my case, my parents had their own room and bathroom for most of my life. While people with siblings are probably equally familiar with invasions of privacy and having a fun sleepover buddy whenever they wanted, only children develop a keen sense of sacred privacy. If the parents aren’t too invasive, an only child will probably grow up enjoying a lot of independence and alone-time, in a space that is truly theirs.
There’s a lot of literature about the various traits of only children. Adjectives like, “selfish” and “spoiled” typically start any description of a child without siblings. There are positives, though, like learning to love and appreciate being alone and occupying oneself. According to the scientists and child behavioralists, all this time alone and self-entertainment makes the only child the most creative of the child-types. I can attest that Alone Time is my second favorite time of the day, after Dinner, and I’m pretty creative. Also, I grew up with adults constantly praising my maturity, which is pretty easy to achieve when you spend a lot more time around groups of adults than the average kid with siblings. Only children are spoiled because their parents only need to spend money on one kid, instead of three. In my case, I was a child globe-trotter. In the same vein, all that parental attention gets directed toward one kid, making us the center of the universe. This kind of attention and (hopefully) love, fosters confidence, independence, and sometimes egregious selfishness if it isn’t checked.
According to the studies, only children have a lot in common with both the oldest and youngest children in the family. Oldest children tend to be very mature, organized and high achievers, while youngest children are often more creative, independent and entitled. Youngest children, because their family was somewhat preoccupied, are also often attention seeking and very social. Likewise, youngest children typically have a lower sense of responsibility (as the baby of the family, they were hardly ever in charge) and resent when their freedom is hindered.
Recently, I moved in with my partner, Kyle, the youngest of three brothers.
I’ve had roommates throughout college, but I never truly moved out of my family home. Dorms are vacated for summers and I lived at home during grad school. Both Kyle and I were understandably wary about living together. Not only am I an only child, but our relationship had been long-distance throughout school. We thrived, developed, and loved in our own spaces on our own time, with our own lives. How would we fare in the same city, let alone sharing a 1.5 bedroom apartment?
We had a lot of friendly and annoyingly gender-centric advice such as, “don’t let issues fester” and “she’s always right.” Personally, if something bothers me, I address it immediately, and often, with too much force. (I’m working on it.) Also, I’m wrong a lot. So far, our biggest battle occurred when Kyle stole my leftovers. We’re both adjusting, albeit stubbornly on my part, to living so closely with another human person. I’m working on relaxing and sharing the space just as much as he’s accepted my need to be organized, tidy, and not have dribbles of pee on the bathroom floor. These were the issues and adjustments I was expecting.
What I didn’t expect was how thoroughly fun it is to live with Kyle. It’s like a constant sleepover with movies and popcorn and deep Life Chats until the wee-hours. (Wee-hours being about 9:30 pm.) It’s a constant state of “we could do anything or be with anyone” and we both picked each other to do anything with. I’m so grateful for Kyle’s choice in the location of the apartment and for always being happy just to be there. It’s extremely cliché but it’s also the most lovely experience.