An Only Existence
Posted on October 8, 2015
My parents set out to have one child…to start with. Naturally, if they didn’t get it right the first time, they were free to try again. I think it was very fortunate that I came out first because they had absolutely no need to continue on with that whole process. I figure I saved them time, money, and a great deal of discomfort. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. What brought this up is a story I read in the Detroit Free Press this week on only children. It wasn’t for or against only children, but it did attempt to explore perceptions and issues with them. With me. I’m one of them. And, as you’ll see, I don’t really have issues.
I find much of it comes back to social things. If a child is the only one, will he or she be socially awkward? If they’re an author, of course they’ll be socially awkward! But it works that way if the little future-author tyke is alone or has brothers and/or sisters. The good news is that if you’re an only child, you don’t need to have brothers and sisters or miss having them. It’s called an imagination. Remember how they tell you that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family? My friends, that’s bullshit. My pretend siblings did the one thing I needed them to; they obeyed me. The downside is when they misbehaved, I got blamed.
Setting the bar is typically the job of the oldest child. And since I was the oldest, middle, and youngest, I could still set the bar, only I could set it very, very low to begin with. It was really an opportunity to negotiate with my parents. “Yes, I enjoy going out to eat in public, but I can live without it since you both cook. Now how much is my good behavior worth to you? Let’s talk about my allowance, summer vacation options, and merit bonuses.” I was already a business major before I ever stepped foot in college.
Sharing was a bit more complicated. Only children didn’t really have to share. My clothes weren’t hand-me-downs, my bedroom was my own, my toys were my own, my imaginary friends were my own, and nobody, nobody, needed to touch any of my shit. That’s not lonely and it’s not anti-sharing. That’s ORDER in the chaos of life.
Now, I’m not against having siblings. My husband has a younger brother, though I’m still puzzled at what doors of opportunity that opened for him. I’m older than my brother-in-law and he refuses to do anything I order him to do. In that respect, my husband’s training of his brother is an epic failure. At the first sign of defiance, rub em’ out and start over. That’s setting the bar, people.
Is it difficult being the only child? Difficult is the wrong word. Let’s be honest, it can be fucking annoying. “Help your mother with the dishes. Get your coat, we’re going grocery shopping. The lawn needs to be mowed. Don’t forget to weed whip and edge. Go water the flowers. Your father needs help cleaning out the garage.” Hey! I didn’t create these disasters. I didn’t let the garage get mucked up. I didn’t want a lawn. I didn’t even want the flowers, nor was I given the opportunity to pick them out. You people deal with your issues. I’m going to go and write another book.
And then I’d walk my little 8-year-old ass back in my room, sit down and figure out what was going to happen in the next chapter I was writing. That typically lasted less than 60 seconds before I’d find myself being threatened if I didn’t put my coat on or go help with the dishes.
So am I alone in this? Any other only children out there who want to speak up with their horror stories?
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.