Only doesn’t mean lonely

A collection of photos from Cecelia Feor's childhood as an only child. Photo credit: Cecelia Feor

There’s nothing like a sibling bond, a sibling rivalry, or a sibling in general: someone to confide all your secrets in, someone who watches out for you, builds you up, and of course, someone to share the “Don’t tell mom” pact.

I think.

I’m not too sure, because I don’t have any siblings. That’s right, I’m one of those only children. One and only.

For as long as I can remember, people told me being an only child was a gift, as though the family lottery was awarded to me and I didn’t even know it.

As a kid, I never had to share toys. True. As a teen, I never had to share a car. Also true. If I wanted to play with Barbie, I got to play with Barbie. I never had to call shotgun on drives to school or the mall.

But it wasn’t all Barbies and quiet drives.

For years, I hoped for a sibling. Partly because I wanted someone to bond with, but also because I yearned for someone to share the attention I got from my parents. Everything I did went on the fridge. Every chore was mine alone. There was never a moment when both parents didn’t want to know where I was. That is true now too and I am 23.

No part of me ever worried who my parents’ favourite was because they had no other option.

On the other side, I had no one to blame for my mistakes.

As a kid, I often longed for a sibling, just so playing with Barbie wouldn’t be a one person narrative.

When I started kindergarten, I found it difficult to share with my peers. My toys were always just mine. Why did I have to share them with strangers?

Sharing was a hard lesson to learn but I passed kindergarten.

As time went on, I began to understand spending so much time with my parents meant I had developed the personality of a 50-year-old woman.

So my parents’ peers became mine, and I ended up with a sharp wit, the mouth of a sailor and fierce independence.

When I became a teenager, the need and want for a sibling quickly dissipated.

Cat fight is an understatement to what I saw of sibling relationships.

Siblings were people who stole your clothes, ate your food and talked endlessly about what an inconvenience you were.

Ironically, it seemed more convenient for me to be an only child.

But I don’t think I suffered. There’s a difference between only and lonely.

While I enjoy the silence of having my own room and fondly remember my one-person Barbie narratives, I am also reminded I can’t say, “Don’t tell Mom” to anyone.