Parenting is all about hearing snarky comments from people you barely know. Off-topic start, I know, but I’m strolling towards my point. The other day someone very grinningly told me, “Since you turned out an only child, make sure you give your child good company very soon.” Thank you but no thank you, I will cross the bridge if and when I come to it – retorted my instant inner voice. This voice trailed off by bombarding me with a thought, “What is it about being an only child that makes people label us as incomplete?” I’m dead sure people with siblings don’t get knocked with ridiculous comments like, “Oh, make sure your child remains an ‘only child’ so you can shower all your love on him/her and not halve it with another kid. Imagine doing something like that!” Uff, ingane senti akkalle 😛
Pause your thoughts right there coz we are delving deep into some of the things we heard, felt and thought while being an only child.
The one and only spoilt brat? Nah, olakka kond adi kittunna not-so-spoilt-brat
Among all the stereotypes about the only child, this is undoubtedly the most long-standing and annoying one. But in one way, I’m kinda thankful to this archaic opinion of only kids growing up as spoilt brats because it gives our parents that extra push to ensure that their kids don’t turn up bratty. Of course, we, the only kids don’t get everything that we set our eyes on. Our parents don’t believe in instant gratification and most times we are told to wait, defer and savour the virtue of patience like every other goddamned kid out there. A lot of only-child parents are also staunch believers of the age-old Malayalam proverb “Onne ollengil olakka kond adikkuka”.
“Aiyo mole, ath entha onnil nirthiye”
Remember that snarky comment we discussed at the beginning of the post? So, if nobody olakkakk adikalfy such people to get some sense into their heads, there is a high chance that if you end up being the mother of an only child, you might probably hear this comment years later. This is also one of the comments a lot of our mothers have had to hear while we were teens, while we curiously tuned in to hear how our mothers tackled this question. Of course, before our mothers could respond, the ammayis were quick to follow it up with, “Ningalil aarkarunnu preshnam?” Yeah, can’t blame their conventional thinking – choice and rights are something probably they never had when it came to reproduction and hence will remain outlandish concepts.
Cousins are your unofficial sahodiri sahodaranmar
So what if you don’t have siblings? You’ve got your cousin squad, and definitely, one or two of them who have forayed into your soul sister/brother list. And here’s the best deal! You get to go for sleepovers with them, hang out anywhere with them and experience the privilege of having a sibling without the obnoxious part of having them flick the aatu nottu kittiya kozhikaal on your plate, shamelessly eavesdropping on your phone conversations and being a dramatic tattletale to your mum. Most of the time you only get to see their goody-goody side, because you meet them for vacations or weekends and generally you and they are in a chill mood then!
Also Read: Small Joys Of A Malayali Childhood
“Aiyo, bhayangara lonely feel ayirikkum alle”
Lonely alla. You, an only child, prefer to call it solitude, and you bask in it. Friends called off plans at the last moment? No issues, you’ve got your book! Waiting for someone at a café with a battery-drained phone? Not a worry, you’re already having a super engaging conversation. With yourself. In your head. And now the amusement on your face transforms into a wide grin and you run the risk of being passed off as a lunatic by the waiter who’s having second thoughts of coming near you to take your order. Actually not anymore, thank God for masks!
Hand-me-downs? Ath entha item?
While you hardly got everything that your heart longed for, one thing is for sure. Whatever you used to get (which by the way, also applies to the eldest sibling of every family), right from clothes to toys, landed on the palm of your hand straight from the aisles of a retail outlet – brand new and sparkly. Books that you got smelled fresh and didn’t have scribbles, doodles or scrawny versions of your non-existent older sibling’s name written all over it.
“Ithaanu nee janichappo adyayt ittu thanna uduppu”
Not only would you hear this dialogue from your mum a hundred times a year since you were a toddler, but when you get married she will ensure that it is declared to your better half too. A lot of you would thank your stars that there was no Facebook in their times, lest this thuni showed up as memories for decades that passed by and in the ones to come. There were a lot of ‘firsts’ of yours lovingly stashed away in a box as they dotingly watched you grow. Your house will have an equal number of photos of you right from your aadyathe pallu vanna stage to your ettamathe pallu poya age – framed, hung and collaged. Remember Urvashi’s character Hridayakumari’s, “Jeevithathil aakeppad oru mangakke njan kallerinjittullu. Aa kallanith!” dialogue from Kadinjool Kalyanam? I strongly believe that all ottamakkal’s mums are specimens of the Hridayakumari species.
Orupaad mutta ulla basket – that’s us!
Moving on to some of the not-so-great aspects of being an only child. Hogging a lot of attention seems like a kickass prospect until you realise that it is actually a double-edged sword. Your parents have gambled all their muttas in a basket, devoted all their time to guarding, pampering and nurturing these muttas and you, oh special basket of all their muttas, are their best bet! Their level of expectation of you is through the roof and their desire for you to succeed skyrockets slightly more than their counterparts with two or three kids. Especially since they don’t have the option to pacify themselves saying, “aa ivano ingane aayi poi, ini ippo aduthathine nannaakkam” or “shyo ival enthaano ingane, enthayalum moothathu engilum oru nilayail ethiyallo”
Your kid will not have a biological ammayi/ammavan/ilayamma/ilayachan
This is something you may have thought of at least once. In fact, poured out your sorrow to your parents too. Of course, this would remain invalid if you get married into a large family and get your unborn future kid to earn himself/herself one or two biological uncles and aunts. Yep, been there, done that! And let’s seize this moment to give a shoutout to all those awesome friends and cousins of ours who are going to be the coolest uncles and aunts for our kids!
“Hostelil pokumbo nere ayi kolum”
If you are an only child and your parents think that you are a tough competition to Joey of Friends when it comes to sharing food or room or basically anything, chances are that you might have heard this dialogue often. I cannot deny that there isn’t any truth in this saying because as children there are several traits that they develop over the years. For instance, if you have a sibling with who you often get into a fight to prove your point, you are naturally more assertive and prone to constant bickering and counterattacks than an only child. Because only kids don’t really have to fight for attention, resources or largely for their daily sustenance. The first time an only child brushed his/her shoulders with any of this would be when they were packed off to a hostel and had to deal with living and sharing resources with two (or even three) other people.
If you grew up as an only child, what were the best and worst parts of it? Let us know in the comments!