Things you’ll only understand if you’re an only child

Pros and cons about the sibling-free life

The last question I ever want to be asked during a conversation is “Do you have any siblings?” I always struggle whether or not to keep the conversation simple just by lying.

“Well…I’m an only child.” I would answer, while suddenly becoming self-conscious and  trying to conceal every bit of me that hints at the stereotypes of an only child.

Right after my answer, I always observe a nuance in the questioner’s expression. Intentional or not, it usually is a slightly derogatory look, followed by the all time class question:

“You must always get anything you want.”

Nope. I don’t.

The natural facial muscle contractions in reaction to the phrase “only child” always make me uncomfortable.

Whenever people talk about the only child syndrome it always sounds as if we have a gene defect by birth. However, our lives are more complicated than you think. While there are obvious benefits for being an only child, there are also annoying moments of being the only one because you then become your parents’ main center of attention.

Disclaimer: Information below is based on personal observations, so if the overgeneralization does not apply to you, my apologies.

You dominate the song choice during family road trips, and you decide what’s going to be on the table for dinner

You have tons of adult friends

We know how to interact with adults really well because we have no one else to talk to at home

People remember your name. Nobody refers to you as “someone’s sister or brother”.

Your dad is your homie

If you’re a daughter, you can pretty much talk your dad into getting anything you want. You and Dad always team together against Mom

 You share clothes with your mom

“Oh mom you can wear that too.” The best excuse for expanding your wardrobe.

We love fake siblings

My other cousin who’s just like my little sister

My friend’s son whom I always see as a little brother

College caught you off guard when you have to learn how to  share a room with someone

You wished you had an older sibling at some point in childhood.

My cousin who gave me my English name, Wendy, because he was obsessed with Peter Pan when he was little

We never learned how to share

When an only child shares something with you, that means you mean a lot to him or her.

Survival of the fittest does not exist in our homes

We barely fight with others for anything. We’re peaceful creatures

Tons of stuffed animals or toys

We don’t have younger siblings to be our toys and dolls. When we don’t have anyone to talk to at home, we talk to these buddies.

Collect friends one at a time

We are generally socially awkward in group settings, but we are best at having deep conversations with one person at a time.

Myth busters

  1. Not all only children have imaginary friends
  2. We’re not all mama’s boys or daddy’s girls
  3. We don’t always get what we want
  4. We’re not accidents


  1. When we get punished, no one is there to diffuse the punishment or distract our parents’ attention
  2. Whenever you tell others you’re an only child, you almost always receive a fake compliment, “Oh, you don’t look like one.”
  3. Your parents’ conversations with others revolves around you.
  4. Loneliness.  (The silence in the house can be deafening.)
  5. Overprotective parents. Yeah. They freak out when you scrape your knee.
  6. Feel left out of the family when Mom and Dad match up without telling you.

That awkward moment when Mom and Dad are twinning and you are walking alone behind them.

Even though only children around the world share many characteristics listed above, coming from an Asian culture, I’ve noticed a few differences between only children in the West and the East.


  • We feel obligated to take care of our parents when they get old.
  • We are responsible for doing well in everything.
  • We can’t stand loneliness. We crave company.


  • Children don’t carry the burden of taking care of their parents.
  • Take pride in being independent and squad-less.

These pros, cons, facts, and misconceptions are all based on my personal experience and observations.  Hope these points are helpful for your understanding of only children.