When I was little, I always wanted a sibling. I envied my friends who had cool older sisters to learn from, or older brothers to look out for them. Then there were the lucky ones with younger siblings who
Then I met a family with six girls. Now - I love them dearly (we're cousins by marriage - er, sort of). But hanging out with that many siblings, who were all sharing rooms and closets and clothes, made me realize something:
I didn't have to share a closet, or a budget when it came time to buy school clothes. There was no shortage of peace and quiet, because I didn't have to share a bedroom. I could watch what I wanted on TV, and no one was around to tie up the telephone (back then there was only one per household - the horror!). Everything I had was just mine. I didn't have to pick up after anyone else, and there wasn't anyone around to get me into trouble.
That probably sounds lonely to some - and I suppose it was, sometimes. When I was a teenager, especially. That's an awkward time anyway, and not easy to go through on your own. My situation was unique in other ways, too. I was home alone a lot, and most of my friends didn't live close by.
As an adult, I have observed siblings argue over a host of issues (money, property, parenting, etc.). I don't envy those arguments, and have repeatedly thanked my dad that I am still an only child.
I do envy the close relationship siblings enjoy. They have a bond that is (literally) unbreakable. No one in the world understands you like someone who grew up in the same home, with the same parents, and shares the same history and memories.
When I say friends are the family I choose, I'm absolutely serious. For an only child, that bond is formed in a different way. We don't share memories or history, so it isn't a pre-requisite for someone to be our family. Our view is more open; family can be anyone. A person doesn't need to penetrate an unbreakable bond in order to be our "sibling."
When a friend says I'm "like a sister" I know she means she loves me. But if she has siblings (especially sisters), I take the statement with a grain of salt. The truth is, the bond she feels with her sister(s) is something I could never hope to share. We don't share a history, and we don't share memories. I may be a good friend, but friendship can still change, and fail, and even end. That bond isn't as solid as the bond siblings share - even if they don't always get along.
Siblings can yell and scream and fight. They can call each other names. They can talk behind each other's backs. They can even lie to, and betray, one another. At the end of the day - a sibling bond will still be intact. They might be angry - but they'll always be siblings.
Friends are not the same. If we betray trust, or fight, or call someone the wrong name - they'll walk away, without even thinking twice. We may have a bond - but it's far from unbreakable.
A sibling bond is constant and forever - even if one or both people don't want it. It's something that can't be broken, and something that an only child will never really share.