Live Through This

One on One

Dylan and Laia are both only children, and they have FEELINGS about this. Here, they chat about those feelings.

Collage by Emma D.

DYLAN: I’ve been wondering as an only child now a little grown up, do you feel a little bit socially awkward like I do?

LAIA: I feel a bit socially awkward when it comes to hanging out with groups of people. Even though once I get to the hanging out I have fun, a part of me would always rather stay home and just hang out by myself.

Do you have any half-siblings or are you a TRUE only child? I have two half-sisters on my dad’s side and a half-brother on my mom’s, but my sisters lived with their mom and my li’l bro was born after I moved away for college, so I never had to deal with them haha. Technically, I am an only child.

DYLAN: I’m a total true only child. I’m trying to get my mom to end up with a dude with a six-year-old kid. How fun would that be? I think that would be the funnest thing. Not having to grow up with a pesky little brother, but then getting this sort of…optional?…younger sibling to chill with? Sounds perfect to me. Then when you are a brat you can go find your dad. Cool deal!

For me, being an only child made me crave having people around me at all times. The first time I lived in dorms, I was just like, AHH YESSSSS, PEOPLE, EVERYWHERE, 24/7! In high school my dad moved out, and my mom is gone all the time, so I was home alone for most hours of the day. I love living with my friends now. I feel like I’m making up for lost time.

Also, I replaced some sibling feelings with my dog. I got him when I was seven, right after my parents took me to see My Dog Skip in theaters. After that movie they were both TOTALLY weeping, I’ll never forget that. I had been begging my dad for a dog, and he said no for years, but after having his heart shredded to pieces by that movie, he let me get one. My dog is 12 now and we are totally best friends. I’m obsessed with him, it’s not normal. I told my parents before we got him, “I just want someone to play with when I come home from school.” Doesn’t that make you just want to PUKE?

The only time I was ever, like, “MOM, DAD, WHY CAN’T I HAVE A BROTHER I WANT A BROTHER!” was when my little cousin was born. I was eight and he came to visit over Christmas, and having a baby to dangle around was really fun. For a minute. I don’t think I’d be able to handle having a growing boy in my house, 24/7. I guess my little boy dog filled a subconscious need. But that could easily be a load of BS, because I just really fucking love dogs. Little dogs. He’s such a good guy! I mean, my life did end up being like My Dog Skip, minus the charming small-town-USA life. “I was an only child. He was an only dog.” I watched that movie the day before I moved to college and wept. My neighbors heard me sobbing/heaving through my window and asked if everything was OK, I was so emotional.

LAIA: I totally have never seen My Dog Skip nor did I even know it was a movie prior to our conversation. It sounds like it would bum me out.

I don’t think I had that same reaction when I went away to college. I mean, I was used to spending a lot of time by myself but I was also ALWAYS with my friends and stuff so I don’t think I was a “lonely” only child or whatever. My parents divorced when I was a baby, so it was always just me and my mom. I never really wanted siblings. Is that weird? I was content with the universe my mom had created for me. I never really felt like I was lacking in that area.

Did you have a really tight-knit group of friends when you were in school? I definitely had a group of best friends that I spent most of my time with, but I also sorta drifted from one group of friends to the other at different points in time. Now when I look back, I wonder if that has anything to do with being an only kid or if it’s some other screwy thing in my brain. But everyone else was always so GIRL GANG and I was jealous of that kind of commitment to a group of friends. I kind of still am a loner. But I’m not trying to be dramatic about it.

DYLAN: I was a pretty reserved kid, never really considered myself “friends” with either of my parents. Then I grew up and my parents separated and now my mom and I are total buds. I mean, it was out of necessity, because it was just the two of us for most of my teen years. But since I am essentially the weird, crazy 19-year-old version of my mom anyways (as I like to think) it was an inevitable friendship. And it would have been weird to have another kid around messing with our dynamic.

Also, I feel like I got total special attention to my creative potential because there was only one of me. I don’t know if my parents would put up with, say, my switch of colleges freshman year, or even sending me to an art school, if they had other kids to worry about.

I 100% totally absolutely always felt like I was a social floater. We’re so the same right there. At my K-8, which was a very cliquey place, I drifted among the three main social groups. It surprises me that it flew with all the kids, since the social structure there was so rigid. There were the popular kids, the middle kids, and the unpopular kids. Very clear and defined. I never had a “group.”

All my independent, socially-drifty years made me just want to die to have a gang of my own. I just never really stuck with any of them. I’ve always had, say, a roster of good buddies, not a gang. I want a gang really bad. That’s just not my social building instincts I guess.

LAIA: Did you have imaginary friends? I never did, though I did like to dress up in elaborate games and play that I was a detective going undercover as a teacher in, like, the past, so I would wear long dresses and gloves and hats and then hide a water gun in my purse and teach a pretend class and interview pretend suspects, which I guess is just the same as having imaginary friends? I don’t know, what was your favorite only-child game? Haha that sounds so sad ONLY-CHILD GAME.

DYLAN: I had an imaginary friend who was a leopard named Crystal who had a diamond collar. Super-luxurious diva friend. I guess my only-child games were mostly arts and crafts, learning how to sew, giving my American Girl dolls “layered” haircuts (always a failure), lots of glue and feathers and glitter. It makes sense because that is exactly what I do in art school now, except I got a lot better at giving real people haircuts.

I’ve been thinking about how I went to an all-girls high school, and how sisterhood was a big theme there. I was so cynical about that whole sentiment of sorority—is that a word you can use like fraternity to describe brotherhood?—and thought all the girly bonding seemed so contrived. Hey, maybe that’s why I never had a total girl gang of friends! I was too busy thinking it was lame. Whoops. Was being really sisterly-affectionate with your friends a part your teenage friendships at all? I never felt that way. I know I’m a Virgo and all, but I definitely feel like being an only child contributed to my general reservedness for most of my growing up.

What weird parts of me can I blame on my parents for not having spawned more offspring? I bet a lot. Or maybe it’s just my personality? Nah, totally doubt THAT.

So, I guess I felt the only-child blues from time to time. But overall, I don’t know…I’m pretty happy with being the only kid in the end.

LAIA: Omg I totally went to an all-girl high school too!!! Though I feel like that’s a topic for another time. I feel good about everything we covered, do you?

DYLAN: GOOD WORK, Team Loner! Nice chatting witchu! ♦

20 Comments

  • MissKnowItAll December 20th, 2011 7:34 PM

    I loved reading this even though i have two brothers

  • sweeteelou December 20th, 2011 7:53 PM

    I’m an only child too!
    I feel just as social as the next kid, but I feel like I’m a professional at being by myself and being a happy little homebody.
    When I was little, I did have some magnificently awesome ONLY CHILD GAMEs.

  • rachelsea December 20th, 2011 7:54 PM

    Great post! I am like Laia in that I am an only child who never wanted siblings. My parents divorced when I was two, and I always liked my family as just my mom and I. I also had (many) imaginary friends, but my favourite one was named Crystal (like Dylan’s). I imagined her like the pink power ranger girl. She was awesome.

    • Nomi December 20th, 2011 8:12 PM

      I agree about the no siblings part! I always sort of wanted a sibling just so I could have someone to side with against my parents and someone else for weird family friends to dote on, but in reality I did like getting all the attention (and Hannukah presents) and also my own (huge) room.

  • Annie December 20th, 2011 7:56 PM

    I love this! I’m an only child too. Actually, I had a HUGE meltdown a month or two ago with my parents about it. Well I guess not with them, more so at them. I come from a town where only children are a very rare occurrence and twins are eerily common. Seeing stuff like this makes me feel a lot better about it. Even though I’ll never have a sibling it’s comforting to know that there are other people in the same situation. Thanks again for being so perfect, Rookie!

  • Nomi December 20th, 2011 8:10 PM

    Only child games are the best games because they teach you how to entertain yourself so you dont have to rely on other people. I grew up with a lot of friends in my neighborhood but I havent had a pet since fifth grade and I really miss having one.
    I had imaginary siblings :3 Isnt that sadly typical? That was when I was five–I had four younger sisters, but the only one who ever interacted with me was Rosie, my oldest younger sister who was four. she was a brat. I also had an older brother named Adu or some weird name, but I didnt really know what teenage boys were like so he was just never around. Then when I was seven I had an imaginary friend named Victoria and about fifteen imaginary animals–it was really hard to keep them all straight.

  • missblack December 20th, 2011 8:49 PM

    Alternatively, ‘only-child games’ could also be called ‘homeschooled-child games’ because I used to play games just like that when I was little, and so did the rest of my siblings. That whole entertaining-yourself thing, I guess.

    Though it is a little less imaginary when you have four other siblings to play your children/enemies/fellow astronauts.

  • FashionHauties December 20th, 2011 9:34 PM

    I have two brothers, and trust me, I have wanted to be an only child on multitudes of occasions. But I was totally an uber-creative kid who made up game after game and forced my siblings to eat many variations of “macoroni and cheese” (sliced velveeta that I ripped into tiny pieces to imitate my Kindergarten cafeteria food- true story!) or play school day after day after day. I love having siblings, but now that I’m in high school we fight every day and it’s not as perfect as it once was. Hopefully some day we’ll be good friends again! Being an only child sounds fun in some ways- the only good thing is being able to blame my bros for eating the last slice of cake (haha)! :)
    Great interview/post Rookie!
    Here’s a post on my blog featuring me and my crazy siblings! Let me know what you think! http://fashionhauties.blogspot.com/2011/11/sibling-matching-why.html

  • Skatapus December 20th, 2011 9:59 PM

    Hey, lets have an article about people who go to all girls’ schools? I want to compare mine to everyone else’s! :3

    • FashionHauties December 20th, 2011 10:22 PM

      that would be really cool! I’m thinking about going to one next year!

  • Mags December 20th, 2011 10:01 PM

    I’m an only child and sometimes I wonder if life would be more interesting with siblings, but then I see that a lot of people who have siblings are not necessarily having more fun than I am, so then I don’t care as much. I also really have grown to enjoy and value my alone time. But that’s partly because I’m a total introvert.

  • crimsonandclover December 20th, 2011 10:08 PM

    I completely agree– I’m an only child and I’ve always had a weird sense of obsession with those family-like groups of friends, which has led to watching a lot of Buffy and Firefly (it seems to be a pet obsession of Joss’ as well) :)

  • Maddy December 20th, 2011 10:16 PM

    I have a sister, but I am often home alone a lot. I am also obsessed with my dog!

  • Juniper December 20th, 2011 10:27 PM

    Cool! I have an older brother,but I have a lot of only child friends. I’ve always kinda wondered what goes on in their heads though because they have similar personalities. It’s weird how your siblings( or lack there of)can shape who you become.

  • timelady December 21st, 2011 3:22 AM

    Cool chat! I was an only child for about seven years. But I still feel like an only child sometimes. That sounds terrible, but it’s true. I love my brother, and wanted a sibling so badly. We were close until I moved to Europe this past year and he barely talks to me on skype when my mom calls. He tended to call me the ‘golden child’, and that makes me feel awful. It’s probably because my mom and I are like Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. She raised us all by herself, and me being the oldest made her more of a friend to me than a parent. Once when we were alone in the car before my leaving, she even said that she considers me to be her best friend. I think it’s because it she was so young when I was born and it was just us.

    At least my brother gets a true authority figure whereas I got a quasi-authority, more of a buddy, sort of childhood relationship with our mom.

  • koolkat December 21st, 2011 5:39 AM

    I was an only child for the first few years of my life, and I definitely feel like it had a huge effect on my personality. I’m a bit of a floater, and I’m DEFINITELY socially awkward!

  • WitchesRave December 21st, 2011 5:55 PM

    I’d love for you guys to do a post on going to an all-girls high school! Even the little that you discussed here (the really close sisterly affection, close cliques) really relate to my situation, especially since i too find it quite strange and am a social floater…

  • Ticket December 22nd, 2011 2:25 AM

    Ha! “Super luxurious diva friend” made me giggle.

  • Tourdivoire December 23rd, 2011 7:48 AM

    I am the last child in a family of five, so I never even considered what being an only child could be until later in life, when I met one of my best friends whose parents couldn’t have another child after her.
    She is just as you describe, “socially drifty”, and I can understand where it comes from: growing up in a very confined environment (one or two parents and yourself), it must be really challenging to face the rest of the world!
    But I have to say, it’s been the same for me though. I was both the quiet little one and the crazy one in my family, maybe because I felt there was no room for me in such a crowded family, so I played those ONLY CHILD GAMES a whole lot! Although from time to time my brother would hire me as a soldier in his imaginary army, or my youngest older sister would name my dolls after characters from her books and then watch me play with them, or use me as a doll, dress me up and take pictures.

    Wouldn’t it be great if there was an issue of Rookie about family and siblings?

  • damagedlemons January 10th, 2012 11:20 PM

    I’m a only-child too, and yes, you’re quite reserved in all of your things, and I thought that I was the only who was with everyone and nobody at the same time, and the great thing about it, is that you are the most creative person, all only child I know are into artsy things, even I. But, the most times I feel like the typical social outcast, even when I try to relate with everyone, and I mean outcast, because I feel like quite late bloomer, I’m 18 and I really don’t know if I have issues of selfesteem (subconsciously, because I feel good with me, and, what I’m trying to say, is that I feel the most ‘misanthrope’ person. If you, as a human being, can say that) or what is wrong with me because I really never care of hangin’ out with people like most people do, never care in dating (I’ve never had a bf), and the problem with that, is that you feel like you were wasting your time and your youth and don’t grow as is usually normal and you feel as if you have three eyes or something. Althought, is not that you don’t care, the problem is that you are your better company. I believe that all of that ‘existential -drowning in a glass of water- problem’ cames of that ONLY CHILD issue, or maybe I’m just too afraid of people.