Domestic Affairs

Grow up lonely as the one-and-only

By Ai Yang (
Updated: 2010-07-30 16:54
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"Nevertheless the status of being the only one in the family will certainly affect more than just the childhood of a person, and it will have to take more than just ten or twenty years to define the significance of being the onlies."

The other day I overheard a conversation between two middle-aged mothers. "People like you and me will end up in nursing homes when we get old - there's no doubt about that. I only have one child and I just know it will be too much on his shoulder in the future."

The way the mother put it seemed like she was really fine with the idea, however the casual statement to me sounded like a personal accusation, stabbed right into my heart, doubting my very ability to care for my own mum-dad-and-me nuclear family.

A very long time ago, when I was still just a carefree child, oblivious to what I was about to face in the future, I used to express my heart full of love for my parents with promises sweeter than honey. "Mommy, when I grow up I'll buy you a fancy house with gardens. And a posh car for you, dad." And those fictitious words never failed to win big smiles on their faces.

When I grew a little bit older and started having a concept of money and the world I live in, I would still joke about the houses and cars, only that I had added another word before those "promises." "I can buy you a big toy house and a big toy car, mum and dad." Yet that was still funny.

However, now, having grown into a full adult and perhaps no longer suitable for the status as the only "child," I have however, completely stopped giving out free promises, for I have better than anyone in the family, realized what it really means to be the only one, to be out there on my own, and to be able to look after not only myself, but more importantly my parents – with no one else's helping hand. And to me the jokes about houses and cars are no longer just for laughs, although I know my parents never really expected me to do that for them, and in fact all they ever have wanted from me is to see that I'm happy – they are indeed the best parents in the world. But a lot of the times, I do wonder, will I be able to provide for my own mum and dad one day when they are old, just as they provided for me when I was growing up? And the fear is what I'm capable to offer them in the future might fail to match what they have given me over the past twenty something years.

Being born in the 1980s, I was one of the many blessed single children who witnessed the huge changes in our lives – changes only for the better. Unlike those privileged children of nowadays, I did not grow up having my dad chauffer me to and back from school in Audis, and I did not have my own bedroom for sleeping and playing. However, I remember how happy my dad was when he replaced his old bike with his first car, and I remember how I couldn't believe how bright and spacious my own bedroom was when my family moved to a bigger apartment with wooden flooring instead of plastic flooring.

It all happened at a time when opportunities were seemingly everywhere and development only ever faster and steadier. And now, twenty years later, it's our turn, the singleton's generation's turn to carry on building the future, but all of a sudden I feel stressed, and I feel lonely. I'm not even certain if I have the ability to really create and produce with the same, if not faster pace, something great like our fathers and mothers did.

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