Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Only child

I caught the American soap Brothers and Sisters on air the other day. It left me quite bemused with the workings of sibling relationships. And reflecting on a life without. Like mine. An only child, I often wonder how different I would have been as a person if I had brothers and sisters. They say China’s one child policy has bred a generation of ‘Little Emperors’, spoilt brats who are completely the focus of their parents’ attention. It is of course, a stereotype – the spoilt only child. But looking deep within, I wonder – do I fit the stereotype?

I do believe there are parts of me that are, only because I don’t have siblings. A certain selfishness at the core is one – the inability to share anything of personal value to me with people outside my parents and now, after years, my husband. Personal value of course is not really about money or material things like that (or at least I would like to believe). It’s more about things like personal space, attention, even to some extent love. I remember hating the possibility of my mother going to work because I would have to share her with others (an older me shudders at the injustice to my mom!). Or having to open up my room for guests whenever there were too many to accommodate in the guest room. Or having to share my precious books with friends who came home. And in more recent times, watching my husband bond with his brother on things I can hardly relate to (cars, phones and such like) can bring that old jealousy roaring back again. This is a certain kind of ‘spoilt’, I think.

Of course there are positives too, I would like to believe. One of which is an uncommon comfort in my own company. I don’t think of myself as an introvert – I have a decent-sized set of people I call friends and I love their company most of the time. But solitude does not scare me; in fact, I look forward to time alone. It stems from all those hours in childhood spent alone in my room, daydreaming, reading, role playing.

The flip side of course, is impatience with too much company. There are times when long periods of time spent with people, even if they are family and friends, irritate me. It is again a kind of selfishness, but I need the alone time. This is something very few people understand. It's one of the reasons spending more than a week in my hometown makes me go mad – I can’t deal with the constant family get-togethers for weddings, births and deaths. I would much rather shut myself up in my room and read a book.

That’s me, for good or for bad. There are times when I wish I had a sister or a brother to take some of the expectations off me. But these are really few and far between. I like being an only child. And I can always watch Brothers and Sisters for a peep into the world of people with siblings.

5 comments:

vineeta said...

That's was such a piece of honest writing- like you said in your tagged post- I too find it tough to get personal in this space, so it is also with admiration that I read this post :) I have a sister & MANY cousins to whom I am close to-to various degrees. I've often wondered how instilled or natural is 'sharing' cause even after a lifetime (almost) of it, it still doesn't come to me as easily as it should & recently I realised that I developed the habit of staying up at night cause that means 'me time'- and this from a time(school days) I didn't know such concepts exhisted... I also know some people who are single children but absolutely hanker for company & have ended up happily married to people with loads of siblings..So I guess, its more a function of personality type than a condition of being single v/s having siblings.

small talk said...

Yes you are right Vinee. One of my closest friends is an only child who can't do without company. But for me personally, I believe it is all those hours in childhood spent by myself that contributes to this aspect of my personality. :) Anyways... there were just some personal musings. Not to be taken too seriously!

UL said...

I couldn’t imagine life as an only child and I must admit I have often wondered what it is like for you...now I know. That flip side you mentioned I think has more to do with being 'away from it all your life' than 'growing up single'. NOBODY could deal with extended family/friends reunions day in, day out. One gets used to it once one grows up in that sort of an environment but then one also learns of ways to switch off too. And then there are those who long escape. Nice musings, btw.

Chandan said...

Hi Small Talk,
thoughtfully written. I can't resist adding my two bit. Come from a over populated joint family, two siblings too.. I had all this company I never got used to. As a kid I shut myself in every now and then when it got too cramped for comfort, like Vineeta, got into staying up late, vanishing into some shadow of the house ... all for some blssfull `me time'.... shared stuff happily but rarely myself.
What happens with too much noise is that people loose their voices to the overwhelming cacophony. folks mine and elsewhere still remain an oddity, to be watched and savoured for their quirks and qualities from the world within. What it has done for me, is instill a sense of overwhelming tolerence for community living and dazzling small talk skills!

Glad I chanced upon your blog, Its so rich with ideas and experiences... love your reads...Blog on...!

Veera Dikshit said...

That made very interesting read for me in the hotel room at HCMC and I can so relate to many aspects you described, though I am not an only child and am thankful for that. However having grown up in small town India, I did not really care much for the external world and till today, find it difficult to last beyond 30 min max in a large gathering. I too value my personal time a lot and love being alone, which I think is different from being lonely.