Zero. Growing up, this wasn’t something I noticed, because it was the only thing I knew. The only time my single child nature became apparent was when board games were labeled “four or more players,” because there were hardly ever four or more people in the house.
Sometimes, I would go to my friends’ homes and notice how they had similar-aged people they fought with, all raised voices and slamming doors. Then, in college, my roommates’ siblings would come to visit and say things like, “Mom did the thing again!” with a knowing glance. Cue the existential spiral. In my world, no one else would ever know what it’s like when Mom does the thing. For better or worse, my experience was mine alone.
Don’t get me wrong, there were good things, too. I became comfortable filling time by myself, a skill that has proven most useful in adulthood. As an only child, you get to be all of the things (there can be no “smart one” or “loud one” or “sporty one” when there is just… one). I developed into who I am, unaffected by how it might compare to anyone else. As a kid, I spent many hours with my electric typewriter, writing weird stories, which eventually became my job.
Many an armchair psychologist has waxed poetic on birth order and personality — Internet quizzes abound. They are often uncannily accurate, but at the end of the day, we are the products of many different factors. Not all firstborns are hyper responsible overachievers, and not all babies-of-the-family are super social comedians. We are more complicated, more nuanced, and shaped by many facets of our environment and experiences. And family is something we can choose for ourselves.
As an adult, my sibling-free existence isn’t something I consider very often. Until last weekend.
My boyfriend gave his family 23andMe genetic test kits over the holidays, and the results just came back. As the siblings compared their data, like who was more or less Neanderthal, it once again hit me: I don’t have siblings. “I AM ALONE!” I wailed. “I AM AN ISLAND. NOBODY SHARES MY DNA.”
This blew over in around four minutes. In the end, I am who I am — still that same kid hunched over a typewriter — and I wouldn’t change that, even if I could.
I’d love to know: How many siblings do you have? Do you think it affects your personality? Did you ever wish for something different?
P.S. On having an only child, and what’s your personality?