Growing up as an only child is weird, and I'm still not sure if I mean in a good way or in a bad way.
I never experienced the hectic lifestyle that many of my friends say accompanies sibling-hood. In fact, I didn't even have neighbors because my childhood home was in the countryside outskirts of my rural Californian town. I never knew what it was like to fight over a toy, but I did know what it was like to fight for attention from my parents.
Don't get me wrong — for the most part I had an idyllic childhood. I didn't need for anything and most of my wants were fulfilled. Some questionable things happened, but those are stories for my therapist. My childhood looking back, for the most part, was happy.
One thing I did realize early on, however, was that just because I was the only child in the household did not mean I would receive undivided attention from my parents. Which is expected, I mean, parents are people too, they have their own needs and wants separate from me. That was a lot harder to understand as a child though, and up until this last year I held a lot of pent up resentment and angst against my parents.
I did everything I could to be the perfect daughter, and even then felt that my efforts just weren't enough, especially for my mother. I felt isolated because I had no one else my age to play with at home. I was a miniature adult; I experienced full-fledged panic attacks by the age of 5. Other children had a hard time connecting with me because I didn't act my age.
I was spoiled, which is what everyone automatically assumes when you say you're an only child, and in my case, they're right. I once received 100 dollars from the tooth fairy so I could buy my first Nintendo DS. I was 10 and knew that the tooth fairy didn't exist; my parents just had to come up with an excuse to give me that kind of money, I guess.
Although I was spoiled, I wasn't a brat. I never expected gifts and was always thankful. I was always really hesitant to ask for anything, even though I knew the answer was nearly always yes. I was rewarded for good behavior and good grades.
But still there was always something I felt like I was missing: the approval of my mother. She loves me, I don't doubt that, I just don't think she loves me in the way I expect her to. I never felt like what I did was good enough, every A could have been an A+, every second place ribbon should have been a first. Even my choice of friends bothered her; she urged me to hang out with the, "popular" children, she said I would be better off that way.
My childhood was a constant struggle of trying to get her attention, her approval, her acceptance. Even now I feel that I never did, but I've come to terms with the fact that I might never reach this goal. For a long time this ruined my self esteem; my grades plummeted in 7th grade because I just gave up, and they never got better. I stopped caring about appearances and fell into vicious cycles of binge eating and restricting. I hung out with whoever I wanted, the one thing I don't regret. I basically just gave up after years of trying to please her, but still felt the aching hole in my heart because I wasn't.
This isn't a sob story. I'm not completely messed up. I have my demons but they aren't stopping me from doing what I love, creating. I guess the reason I'm writing this is to show people that being an only child isn't the dream you always wished for, and to remind parents of only children that we are exactly that. Only children.