Only Child

Only Child

Sibling rivalry is something I never experienced. I was an only child, or as one of my own children once mistakenly, but all too accurately, expressed it, “a lonely child.” He was more right than he would ever know. Many siblings think that having a brother or sister, especially when growing up, is about the worst thing in their lives. They should only know.

As an only child, if I were angry or in a bad mood, it would have been very helpful to have a brother or sister to hit, pinch, tease or otherwise torment. Instead, I took it out, inappropriately on my parents which led to guilt to this day. Also, because I never had the rough give and take of siblings, I was always timid about aggressive physical contact, afraid I would get hurt. Even in college, forced to play field hockey, my major goal was to keep out of the way of the sticks rushing toward me. As you can imagine, I was not a popular team member.

When I was raising my own children, nothing had prepared me for the rough and tumble, the verbal assaults, the competitions in which my children engaged. They said I took it all too seriously, told me to watch our kittens skirmish and then curl up together.

Everything I did was always the best. There was no one’s report card held up to me, no one’s behavior an exemplar, no achievement to match. This had an unfortunate outcome: In order to maintain my own reputation, if I couldn’t excel, I stopped trying. Sometimes I dropped out before I started, as with biology in college.

I have no one with a shared memory of growing up, of my parents, of my younger self. I have no one to be in my corner just because we share blood.

When I was growing up, I always wished for a brother or sister. Sometimes I still do.


Dorothy C. Judd   © 2016

Next post: February 29th


About twofelines

What to say? I love my family and friends. I also love kids, cats, and books. Oh, and potato chips and Cheez-its. I am a retired teacher who still loves to be in the classroom, so now I am a substitute teacher.
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3 Responses to Only Child

  1. efmcmahon says:

    Thank you for this poignant reflection Dorothy. I was the oldest of five children and often felt resentful of my younger siblings (until I left for college). There are a myriad of dysfunctional family explanations for this reaction, with a lot of these feelings probably more a result of being the oldest girl. My sibling group has had a lot of ups and downs, always with someone the odd person out over the years, and always changing diads and triads depending on the family issue. Right now, I’m on a family “break” for no reason in particular except that we all seem to get on each other’s nerves and when this I discussed attitutude starts circulating, I quietly move to a corner, open a window, and take a breather. Lots of conflict during our parents decline involving decision making and so forth.

    While I love this gaggle of imperfect blood companions (and will be/have been there for them in good times and hard times) if I need emotional support I often find more comfort and affirmation from close friends since there is little to no baggage to interfere in honest communication.

    I do think a lot of my experience has to
    do with our family’s circumstances growing up; I often feel our relationships with one another suffered because of this and carried through to adulthood. Sometimes I feel bad about our lack of consistent affection when I see adult siblings who are close, but I have to accept this is not our reality. I do make it a point to regularly reach out and especially take and show interest in the nieces and nephews who bring great joy do to their freedom from their parents’ past.

    I didn’t expect to be thinking about all this today! and feel selfish after your reflection on your experience. But your feelings nudge me to realize I’m often judgmental about these relationships and need to better work on this and try to push through to another level of acceptance and understanding that probably won’t include resolution because of all the relationship permeatations. Thank you again for encouraging self-reflection! Xo

  2. twofelines says:

    Liz, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. Family relationships are indeed a complicated matter, but it seems you have examined your experiences and feelings carefully and have come to terms with any difficulties. Here’s to friends: essentially the families we make for ourselves! 🙂

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