Are you an only child?
Whenever people ask me that my first reaction is to say yes, but then I catch myself wondering, “Am I?” I mean, I grew up as an only child. My mom says she got it right the first time and didn’t feel like she had to try for a better one, I say she was traumatized and didn’t want to risk getting another one like me. But I’m pretty sure it’s because my parents got divorced when I was too little and didn’t have time to have another one. Then my mom began her life as a struggling single mom and that took so much of her time and energy she didn’t even dream about having another baby.
My dad, on the other hand, didn’t feel the same pressure and soon found my stepmother and they started having kids. They have five boys, so I guess I technically have five half-brothers. Well, six, if you count the one my dad had in between my mom and his new wife. So six half-brothers, or three whole brothers, math-wise. But since I didn’t really see them much growing up, I always considered myself an only child.
I had friends and cousins to play with, and a mom who always allowed me to go to their houses or have them come to ours, so I had plenty of opportunities to play with others. But nothing compares to playing by yourself. I had endless hours to play by myself, just me and my wild imagination, and I always loved it. I did ask my mom for a little sister from time to time, but honestly, I loved being an only child. Plus I had this very close friends who was like a sister to me. Really. We even got into fights all the time, like sisters do. The only difference is that we’d punch each other instead of just pulling hair like most girls do. But that’s a story for another time.
Although I do think playing with other kids is awesome and necessary, I think every child should have the opportunity to have some alone playtime. It’s great! When you play by yourself you do whatever you want. No one says no, no one thinks your idea is not good, and no one tells you what you should or should not do or say. Seriously, I always hated when a friend would say “Now you say this.” It made me want to say, “You know what? You don’t tell me what to say, I decide what I say.” But only I was too shy and would never dare to say that. Anyway, when you play alone, you decide everything. And that requires a lot of imagination and creativity.
I often see children now saying they are bored when they don’t have people to play with, or saying they can’t play something because they don’t have one specific thing, and I don’t think I ever thought that when I was a child. I always found something to do, and if I didn’t have exactly what I wanted, I’d just imagine I did, or get something else and pretend it was what I needed. I learned to use my imagination in my favor.
I think every child needs some alone playtime as much as they need to play with others. Because when you play alone you have the opportunity to explore your creativity and imagination, and you discover you can be very resourceful.