3 Lessons I Learned Growing Up Away From My Sibling and Cousins
Loneliness in childhood taught me 3 valuable things.
Most people can look back on their childhood with fond memories shared with their siblings and cousins, or if you’re lucky, both.
Well, I happen to grow up living in New York, 2,000 miles away from my extended family in Arizona and California. This includes a majority of my first and second cousins and my older brother.
First moving to New York, we spent a few holidays with the family and cousins who live nearby. For reasons I’ll never know why this bond slowly faded and became less and less reciprocated. Now, our relationship consists of three-minute small talk at a rare family function every five years. I’ve come to accept it, but I’ll never forget the sadness it brought me during childhood.
That being said, growing up without my cousins and brother taught me some valuable lessons.
1) Learning How to be Alone
First, it taught me how to be alone. While most children grow up always having siblings or cousins to keep them company, I had to force myself to become content with solitude and learn how to keep my own company.
In other words, I had to adjust to the loneliness.
An only child would probably understand this to an extent. Having a brother much older and living so far away made me feel like an only child for much of my childhood. However, an only child usually has their cousins to fill this siblingless void. Putting this together with being a socially anxious introvert didn’t help in the friend department.
I remember begging for a younger sibling.
Begging to move back to Arizona to be closer to my family.
Trying to reunite with my nearby cousins only for the phone to travel straight to voicemail.
But amid this loneliness, I learned to find comfort with being alone and although I wish things could be different, learning to find comfort in loneliness has given me immense strength as a young adult.
2) Using My Imagination
Growing scientific studies have proved that only-children are likely to be more imaginative and creative than children who grow up with siblings.
Why? Because without always having a sibling or cousin around to play with, you have to find ways to entertain yourself.
As a child, I devoted myself to my dolls and imaginary sister. Sure, most little girls do play with dolls and have imaginary friends, but I created intricate stories around each doll’s life and took my relationship with my imaginary sister extremely seriously.
My wild imagination had also sparked my creativity, allowing me to find my passion through writing. Callouses forming on my hands from the hours spent writing away at the kitchen table.
This influx of imagination and creativity has worked in my asset as I continue to pursue my passion for writing in adulthood.
3) Valuing Friendships
Finally, growing up away from my brother and cousins allowed me to deeply value friendships.
Whenever I made a friend growing up, I would become very attached to this relationship, thinking of the friend as a brother or a sister.
During my childhood, this would lead me to take it very personally when a friendship wasn’t reciprocated or if the other person didn’t put as much effort into the friendship as I did.
However, as a young adult, I learned to become so grateful for this quality of mine, because I was able to weed out those who didn’t put their all in a friendship and value those who cared as equally as I did.
This led me to have genuine friendships that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Bluntly put, it sucks.
It sucks living so far from my brother and cousins and having no bond with my cousins nearby.
To have to look forward to seeing your cousins and brother only one to two weeks out of the year.
To see family photos on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter and wishing more than anything that you could be there too, standing in that photo.
Quite frankly, it’s devastating.
But like many things in life that bring you pain, they can sometimes teach us things we never thought we would learn and values we never thought we would possess.
Solitude is the soil in which genius is planted, creativity grows, and legends bloom. -Mike Norton