Only child defies stereotypes


John Flanegin

We’ve traveled more than 4,000 light years and have finally docked on our desired destination, albeit a crash landing our mission has concluded. Surrounded by new sights and smells, I glance over and notice my fellow kind slowly limping out of our flying saucer. I and other only children have finally made it to earth, not hoping to probe your mind, but to come in peace.
First things first: Yes, I may have had a few imaginary friends, and I may have received more gifts than you during the holidays, but I promise I’m not all of those terrible stereotypes you’ve heard. With selfish, spoiled, dependent, antisocial and lonely being just a few that often land on many a laundry list when thinking of the conventional only child. No, I don’t need to hold my mommy’s hand as I cross the street, and I definitely don’t talk to my imaginary friends every night (I’d say it’s more like once a week.).
During the baby boom of the 1950s, the average American family housed 3.7 children, but as of 2014, parents were changing less diapers and having less children with the average falling to 1.9 children according to the Pew Research Center. This radical decrease has raised the number of only children in America, meaning more kids feel the stigma that much of society has placed around many of some of (in my opinion) the most misunderstood people in the world.
As a matter of fact, only children have held some of the highest positions in American government and have held prominent careers as authors, artists and athletes. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Condoleeza Rice, Elvis, Robin Williams and Frank Sinatra were each a product of a life void of siblings. And with an October 2013 study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealing that first-born and only children perform better in school, have higher IQs, and are more likely seen as high-achieving by their parents, it’s not hard to see why.
But even as much as I would like for it to be, being an only child is not all goodies and gumdrops. Even though I’ve grown up with two loving, hard-working parents and a bevy of great friends, I will admit there have been many times where loneliness, comparable to wading in open waters, has crept into my mind, consuming my thoughts for nights on end. During these times of despair and isolation, I begin to talk to myself, asking myself questions that I still have yet to acquire answers to: Where am I going with my life? What are my future plans? What do I need to do to make myself happy?
During the summer an empty house greets me every morning, leaving me as the king of my domain for three solid months, but even as a king I begin to long for a brother or sister to keep me company. The added pressure of fulfilling my role as the only child to bear the Flanegin name has taken quite the toll on me and has led to fights with my doting parents about schoolwork and my behavior.
Amid one particularly boisterous squabble, I decided my only option was to run, and run I did. For more than three hours I rushed along the gravel paths of the MKT trail, the entire time searching for purpose and staring at the cotton candy sky that lit up my almost marathon-esque course. Places like the MKT, which lies only steps from my home, have served as a sanctuary for me when I shifted into an emotional wreck, seeking shelter and comfort.
Finding others who feel these pains was sometimes difficult and frustrating when I was younger, leaving me with no one to talk to about my issues forcing me to keep it building inside of me. Fortunately, I soon met other children like me, not only only children but also kids experiencing many of the same issues I was still facing. It began to seem like I could pour my heart and soul into my new found friends and developed an almost otherworldly bond too strong to put into words.
Though we may seem like a turtle hiding in our shell, confining ourselves from the rest of the world we laugh, cry and smile just like you. We face all the pressures of a normal teenager on a road to find themselves and discover all that life has to offer, and should be seen as more than just spoiled, stuck up, brats.
By John Flanegin