Personal Essays

Only Child Syndrome?

Yesterday, M and I attended my agency’s anniversary dinner. At one point, we started talking with the others at the table about children and birth order. Someone asked me, and I stated that I am a “typical only child.” And by that I meant that I am spoiled, have  a somewhat co-dependent relationship with my mother, and like to do solitary activities, such as reading and writing.

The woman who asked me responded that she, too, had an only child, and she figured being on only meant I was very skilled at forming relationships with those around me.

That kind of stumped me. Because it’s something I do, often. Not only do I “make friends” very easily, but I let people in and open up with ease. I am the person who says “hi” to random people in Wal-Mart. I’m the girl at the bar who will strike up a conversation, and all of a sudden you realize you’ve spent 45 minutes talking to a complete stranger.

And it’s worked well for me. I can go to a party where I don’t know many people, and still have a good time. I can start a new job and “fit in” with the co-workers within a day. It helps me build rapport with my clients, and allows me to make others feel comfortable enough to open up.

But it has its downfalls. I tend to trust people too early in a relationship. I tend to let people into my life. And it’s never turned out really bad, but it’s lead to me getting my feelings hurt more times than I’d like to admit. But I’ve also made friends I would give up for the world.

It’s interesting, because although I am well aware of this trait, I never related it to being an only child (and honestly, I’m not saying it has anything to do with birth order). But if I think about it, I can understand how it developed.

I was raised by a single mom. She was a nurse and worked long hours. I’ve always been close with my cousins, and as young children, we often spent a lot of time together. Although I was never a “sister,” I imagined we were close like sisters would be.

As I got older, I was encouraged to have friends stay the night and I even remember times when my mom would ask them to stay for the whole weekend, even if I wasn’t interested. After all, it would keep me entertained and out of the adults’ hair.

It makes me wonder, as I look at my three children, how much different it is for them, having each other. None of them know life without at least one of the other. Even my oldest doesn’t remember before her little sister was born when she was only 14 months old. I wonder what it’s like to share daily life with someone as a child. Having someone to play with, but that is also constantly there, someone to share moments with, but never leaves you alone.

I wonder what their relationships will be like as they grow. I hope that by the time they are adults, they are friends as much as they are sisters and brothers. That they continue to share day to day moments and life’s milestones together.

It’s odd, the way things impact our development and personality. It’s odd to me, the chain of events that make us who we are.

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