By Cassie Nataro |

Growing up as an only child comes with certain connotations and consequences. There is no one else to blame for the burn marks in the carpet or the dent in the garage door (you can only blame things on your cat so many times). People think you’re lucky to have all your parents’ attention and that you must have been spoiled rotten.

Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with being an only child. It has taught me a lot of valuable life skills, but I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have a sibling to play with growing up, or offer me advice on relationships now that I’m in college. Unless my parents suddenly decide to adopt, I’ll probably never know the answer to those ‘what ifs’, but here are a few things I learned from being an only child.

Loyalty In Friendships is Key

Without having siblings, my friends are the closest thing I have to that brother or sister relationship. My friends are people that I will be there for through every high and low, sunshine and rain, and they do the same for me. Over a year ago, I had a breast reduction surgery and my best friend was there to help me change my bandages when my mom couldn’t be. This loyalty and trust is something I crave in connections with people and I know that my closest friends will support me as much as my own family does.

Independence is a Good Thing

From the moment my mom showed me how to do the laundry in middle school, I’ve been doing it on my own. I’ve always considered myself relatively independent and sure of myself, not being afraid to do something new or do something alone. While I still struggle to ask for help sometimes, my experience in being an only child has taught me to take the lead, see tasks through, and feel confident in my capabilities at a young age.

Everyone Needs Someone

When my parents had work to do or were busy cooking dinner, I had no one to play with (I promise it wasn’t as depressing as it sounds). This ‘loneliness’ definitely sparked my love of reading, as it is very much a self-guided activity. I became comfortable playing by myself and being the only child around, as well as appreciative of the time spent with friends and in community. While nobody would call me an introvert, I still see the benefit of taking time to be alone and think independently. However, I can’t help but wish that I had someone growing up to annoy, give me advice, or play with me after school.

Perfection Isn’t Everything

With both my parents being professional educators, I was always under pressure to succeed academically. My parents never overly externalized this pressure, but it was something I placed upon myself, knowing that my parents only have me, so I better not screw it up. This has allowed me to be very self-motivated, but it led me to be a perfectionist throughout high school and negatively project my high standards on others. College has helped me realize perfection isn’t possible in all things and it’s okay to ask for help. It’s all a balancing act.

Being an only child has shaped who I am today. I wouldn’t be so stubborn about things having to be perfect, but I also wouldn’t have taken on so many leadership roles if I weren’t capable. I wouldn’t have joined a sorority if I didn’t value that loyalty among those closest to me and I wouldn’t be so willing to take risks and be self-reliant if I wasn’t raised to figure things out on my own. While I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and I like who I am today, I want my future child to have siblings so they can experience what I never did.