Only (child) the lonely

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 4, 2014

I was a late-bloomer, in the social sense. As a child, most of my time was dedicated to television, artworks, or other solitary enjoyments. My parents were too busy with work to entertain me, and my cousins lived too far away for weekday visits. Yes, being an only child was a lonely endeavour. If it wasn’t for my imagination and my ability to outgrow my shyness, I would not have been able to survive my teenage years, let alone my adult years.

As I watch my parents age and my own responsibilities pile up, I wish I could turn to someone for support; a person who could relate to my family’s erratic behaviour and me; someone to talk to without having to explain a lengthy life story; someone who understands mom and dad’s expectations and their tendencies; someone to vent to without feeling the judgmental reverberations.

My parents rely on me for many things, and often times it seems unfair that all their hopes and dreams are now placed upon my shoulders. As an only child, I’m all the eggs in one basket—and they know it as well as I do. I know that having siblings comes with minor annoyances: you’ll have to wake up early to fight for the bathroom, you might not get seconds for dinner, and you might need to move out earlier because your parents can no longer support all of you financially. Those who are an only child face a psychological challenge. I call it “I never asked to be born” syndrome, where the child has to decide whether to do what their parents want them to do or to live their own life. That syndrome is evermore present in only children.

I’m well-aware that when mom and dad are gone, I might be the last branch extending out in an obtuse direction from our family tree. That’s a scary thought, one that only those without siblings can understand. All the affection, all the care, all the attention we received our whole lives will vanish. Memories of family dinners, vacations, and other snippets of normality growing up will be lost—should I allow it to be.

Now, I’m not saying that I want a brother or a sister. That is not a decision for a son to make, nor did I ever pressure my parents to conjure up a playmate for me. From my experience, it’s a flip of the coin on whether you’ll actually get along with your siblings. Regardless, I think a bond between siblings is sacred; they endure the test of time. I find myself attempting to replicate that relationship with my friends and my cousins, but since most of my friends and cousins have siblings and families of their own, the sensation is far from authentic.

A family has a gravitational force that pulls all the beings together. An only child suffers the fate of orbiting alone, like the moon around Earth. Insignificant to the universe, but vital to the planet, we can only wonder what life would be like if there was another.

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