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Michelle Turnberg, Published April 21 2012

Turnberg: Life as only child isn't as it might seem

It seems there is a holiday for just about any occasion, and last week was National Siblings Day. This was the first I had heard of this special day, perhaps because I am someone who does not have any brothers or sisters.

I am an only child, and I’ve hear the standard comments numerous times.

“You must be spoiled,”

“Ah! You must have been so lonely!”

“Didn’t your parents want any more children?”

I think anyone who is an only child can relate. I can tell you that we often do not fit the stereotypes, and in fact, there really is no way to definitively classify us. We share a few qualities: We are usually pretty comfortable with being on our own; we usually are never free of an urge to please and are typically incredibly loyal to our friends.

I always thought it was funny people assumed I was spoiled. I think my parents made sure my to-do list was always a little longer than what could possibly get done. I was washing clothes and floors at the age my kids are now. (Which makes me think I’m not the one who is spoiled … )

I don’t recall ever being lonely growing up, and as I recently wrote I was never bored. We lived out in the country so there were no kids down the street, but when young I was always playing or exploring. In high school I had practice every night after school and friends to hang out with.

The question of whether or not my parents wanted more children always bugged me. I know my parents wanted more children but could only have one. Science in the ’70s was not what it is today.

Of course I’ve wondered what it would be like to have siblings. I would have liked an older brother – someone I could play sports with and who would help me with free throws, someone to laugh with and tease, protect and look out for me. Maybe he would have been smart, handsome and athletic and all my friends would have had crushes on him.

What I got, though, was pretty great. I am very close with my parents. There were times that being an only child could be difficult. When I misbehaved there was no one else to share my trouble. Mine was the only report card, and the only parent-teacher conference to attend. Later I was the only child getting divorced and, of course, my kids are their only grandkids.

It’s both a blessing and a curse: My parents only have to worry about me, and I know some day the tables will turn. I see how my parents care and interact with their aging parents, and I know the time will come when I will be the only one to worry about them.

I love watching my son and daughter grow up together, and I can’t imagine my life any other way. But for this only child, I have to say that life turned out pretty great.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays.