Growing up, I reveled in the fact that I didn’t have siblings to share things with or parents whose attention I had to compete for. As a kid, I played every sport I wanted and maybe got too many Christmas presents – but my parents only had one kid and they wanted me to have every experience. I knew that not every kid had the same kind of life, but for me, it was fine as long as I wasn’t an asshole. Until I graduated from college, this was something I took for granted.
I don’t consider myself to be a brat but in the back of my head, I always knew I’d get whatever I wanted. I didn’t throw tantrums or stomp my feet – but at the end of the day, I got everything I asked for because my parents only had me to worry about. When it came to a school trip or a vacation, I always got to go because even if they couldn’t afford it, dear old mom and dad didn’t want me to miss anything.
For a while, my mom worried I’d miss out on things and would regret not doing things – something that I always thought was annoying. If I didn’t want to go out, she’d say I could use her as my excuse, so people wouldn’t get mad at me for breaking plans. To this day, many of my friends don’t know that my mom always encouraged me to say “My mom won’t let me go” or “Sorry, my parents said no” if I didn’t want to do something. In reality, my parents hardly ever said no to anything but were willing to take the blame because teenage girls were hard and got mad about all kinds of things (broken plans, included).
When I got accepted to my dream college, my parents made it clear that if I wanted to go, I would. If I was okay with taking on loans in my name and graduating with debt, then they’d help me pay it back. My dad said, “We only have one kid. If you want to go, then that’s it.” It used to make me mad when people would make comments about my parents helping me pay for school. Like I was some kind of prissy princess who got whatever she wanted because she was an only child. I’m sure there are only children out there who fit that bill – but I wasn’t one of them. I got a lot of things and did a lot of stuff, but I never once felt like I deserved it. Actually, it was the opposite. I felt guilty and like I didn’t do enough to earn whatever I got. I know now that those feelings came from my parents and how they selflessly provided me with everything to the point that I didn’t know how to ever pay them back.
My entire life I’ve been overcoming this stigma that only children are bratty and unappreciative. For me, that’s completely false. I am aware of and immensely grateful for all the sacrifices my parents made for me growing up. My mom quit her job, so I didn’t have to spend my days in daycare. She raised me at home and volunteered for field trips and PTA things even if she didn’t want to. My dad worked his ass off every day (and still does) so I had everything I ever needed. As an adult now, I can see that being a parent isn’t touting your kid around like an accessory or posting about your day on Facebook. Parenting a child is about giving up part of your life for someone who, until they turn 23, doesn’t really understand or appreciate all the stuff you’ve done. It’s about moving across the country from your friends, family and life to work so your daughter can go to her dream school. It’s about leaving during her peak year in high school softball and following her every move via a subscription to a Rhode Island newspaper that no one else in your state has heard of.
As an adult, I finally know how I can give back to my parents the way they gave to me. I don’t have kids. I actually don’t even really like kids (something I also attribute to being an only child), but I know that someday when I have my own, I have an amazing example to follow. And I can be the best friend, partner and parent to my family – the way my mom and dad were to me. I can love someone so selflessly and care so much that it makes their lives better. Growing up, I didn’t have any siblings, but I had two amazing, incredible best friends who taught me more than how to tie my shoes or ride my bike. Thanks Mom and Dad for this incredible life.