THE most wanted thing Santa never brought was a sibling.
That and a Lemondrop My Little Pony, but the great thing about growing up is you buy your own toys without even waiting for December. I couldn't have wished for anything more - on birthday candles, on pennies in wells, on dandelion clocks - than a sibling, specifically a sister. Lack of a dad was relatively untroubling; what I wanted to plump out the Stewart household was a sister, for children are not practical in their wants.
Instead, I read books about only children and admired them as heroes. Many of my closest, oldest friends are only children and I often wonder if this is coincidence, a subconscious choice or the fact that we onlies cleave to our friendships in a way the siblinged do not. If there is one thing precious the only child upbringing gifts you it is to the treasure the stardust quality of relationships, in a way the multiples will never understand. Eventually you realise life provides friendships as valuable as sibling relationships, if only you're willing to form them, and that nothing has been lost.
So, this week I was bemused to read an interview with Sky News presenter Colin Brazier, who has released Sticking Up For Siblings, a thumb to the nose at the growing trend for parents to have one child. His five years of research, which he happily admits deals in "massive generalisations", makes enlightening reading for an only child. The title is a curiosity, given it's we poor only children who haven't anybody at our backs. But anyway, I'm just demonstrating the lonely only's propensity to depression. Depression, obesity, hayfever, eczema and asthma. Gosh, if only I'd known the risks I would have sought out rainbows and wished all the harder. Brazier calls loudly for multiple procreation; he has six of his own.
None of us escapes the cliched labels of our birth order but only children, with our imaginary friends and gloomy natures, seem to bear the brunt of it.
Rather than the only children, I always feel a little sorry for the parents- what if they don't like the only one they got?
Birth order theories are endlessly fascinating. The youngest is spoiled and flighty. Its parents have worked out their anxieties on the eldest and so the reins are a little loosened on each successive child. They are spoiled from parental guilt: the parents know they are not as excited about this child as they were about the first simply because the first still demands unfettered attention.
Middle children are the most sensible. Peacemakers, they are adept at placating their stubborn elder and soothing their flighty youngers and have the best chance of making it as a balanced, well grounded adult.
Eldest children, studies show, are more likely to be criminals and alcoholics who react to their feelings of rejection at the birth of a squalling interloper. But then I've also read about their high IQs, stern good sense, organisational skills and decisiveness.
Only children are lonely, dreamy and clingy. We are inept at sharing and so we share too much to compensate for our inadequacies.
Then, I'm also a Gemini so I live in a land of opposites, tuning the world in and out like the stations of a radio. I'm flighty and talkative, charming, duplicitous and possess the concentration span of a kirby grip. Though, unlike the hokum of astrology, there is a long, respectable history of birth order theory. I just wonder what the point of it is. Studies may tell me I'm not better off alone, that it's damaging to be the youngest, that we should all strive to be middle children. Well, we can't all be middle children. That's the other good thing about growing up: you realise you've got what you're given and to make the best of it. Otherwise, you're as well crossing your fingers and aiming your ambitions at stars for all the good the results will do.
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