Just because I’m an only child, it doesn’t make me a spoilt brat
Stop labelling us with these outdated misconceptions
If I had a pound for every time someone said "You're being like that because you're an only child", I'd be able to pay off my student loan in a week.
Be it stereotypes from movie characters, such as Dudley Dursley in Harry Potter, or the kid from Inside Out who, by the way, clearly has deep rooted social issues, we are repeatedly told that children who are only children are in some way socially inadequate and have something missing from their lives.
Only children even have a whole syndrome created in their honour. Yes, an actual syndrome. Symptoms include 'selfishness, an inability to share and difficulty making friends', which sounds a little outdated in an age where half of British families have 'just the one' child. Repeating the mantra that only children are all selfish brats and don't know how to work in a team isn't helpful to anyone.
If we spoke about any other group of people like this, it would be a huge social taboo. To go around suggesting a whole swathe of children are this way or that way because of their family background is offensive and, more importantly, doesn't take into account personal circumstance.
At school, I constantly felt like my actions were there to represent the whole 'only child society'. If I had a tantrum, like any small child does, the teachers would blame it on me being an only child, rather than trying to understand why I was frustrated.
If I was upset about a mean playground comment someone had said to me, the teachers wouldn't take concern at how I felt, but would instead suggest that because I was an only child, I was unable to take the banter.
When going to uni, people often break the ice by asking each other about their family background, and this is what only children dread. The moment you tell people that you're an only child, they constantly presume that you're either adopted, or spoilt rotten by your parents and are hugely selfish. People often base these misconceptions based on little evidence.
People always ask the same questions. "Oh, so did your parents struggle to get pregnant?" or "Was that not really lonely growing up with no brothers or sisters?" They often presume that you get anything you want, at any time, but it unfortunately it doesn't work like that. Parents are parents, after all, and whether you have siblings or not, you definitely don't get away with murder. Also, at no point during my childhood did I ever feel lonely, but then I suppose you can't miss what you never had.
I love being an only child. You get to have sibling-like relationships with cousins and friends, and then at the end of the day when they're annoying you, you can say goodbye and you get the house back to yourself.
You also develop better social bonds with adults. As I was an only child, I was brought up having mature conversations with my parents' friends and being included as part of adults' conversations. I wasn't made to sit at a children's table on my own, but was instead included as part of the conversation. Even now, those social skills, such as debate, talking to people who are more superior to me and being polite to my elders, still help me everyday.
Also, due to being an only child, you have to develop strong social bonds with your friends. Your mates will become like your family because you know you don't have a sibling to fall back on for a close bond.
Speaking to fellow only children, one of whom grew up abroad in an environment where being an only child was commonplace, he was surprised at the preconceptions people in England had about only children. He's never had issues making friends, and whilst his parents might be a bit less strict, he doesn't consider himself 'different' to others who have siblings.
He says, "Out of my friends at the international school I went to, most were only children, and they certainly weren't like Dudley Dursley. I was surprised how in England, most representations of only children are kids who are clearly messed up or slightly weird, and that isn't just my experience".
It's also a big issue for many women who choose to have 'just the one' child. We often hear women being chastised for choosing not to have any children, or being told to hurry up before it's too late. Jennifer Aniston, for example, has been asked countless times when she's going to be having a baby. Yet women who choose to have one child are also seen as not being enough of a mother, or even accused of being selfish for only having one, leaving the one child on their own and 'lonely'.
With the rate of only children increasing for financial and social reasons, it's about time we started treating only children like everyone else, instead of like a social pariah.