By Prithi Srinivasan
“You’re an only child?” The question always comes laced with mild doubt and shock.
“Wow, it must be really different. What’s it like not to have siblings?” I never know how to respond. Being an only child seems natural to me; I am and will always be sibling-less and I rarely imagine the opposite.
I have always wondered, however, what it is like to have a sibling. There, I said it—the one question secretly harbored in the mind of only children everywhere. Whenever I ask this question, I receive a multitude of answers, some comparing it to owning a pet, others proclaiming their love for their family in an ode to sibling-hood, and others still, including my own parents, claiming they envy my situation as an only child. Funnily enough, the attitudes to having a sibling that I have witnessed convey my own relationship with my friends and family. Being an only child is not a lonely affair for me when I am constantly surrounded—smothered even—by pseudo-siblings.
The amount of smothering is especially high from my family during the holiday season. During no other time of the year am I more consistently reminded of how large my family is than in November. I start getting the birthday calls within the first week, then Thanksgiving calls until it seems I have communicated with half of the world’s population within a single month. Having such a large family is as much a comfort to me as I imagine siblinghood to be. Sometimes my relatives can be a nuisance and they provide a fair share of drama, but I can always count on them for their love and support, and especially their premature birthday wishes. A more year-round form of smothering takes place courtesy of the Pinewood community. I can always count on my friends to support me, laugh with me, and laugh at me—mercilessly.
My Pinewood friends have been essential in my schooling over the past couple of years. Whether it involves being my partner for a presentation or helping me study before a test, they help me get through any academic challenge, no matter how daunting.
Though I may never be able to answer what it is like to be an only child completely accurately, I think I may have an idea that has been growing steadily over the past few years. It is the same as having siblings—but ones that I don’t have to live with.