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The One and Only

What do Franklin Roosevelt, Joe Montana, Ted Koppel, Charles Lindbergh, T. Boone Pickens and the writer of this sentence have in common?

All great Americans? Yes, of course. But they’re also only children. OK, that’s probably the only thing I’ve got in common with those fellas, but I’ll take what I can get. By the way, Roger Staubach is an only child too, which makes me extra proud to be a member of the club.

According to the fascinating book The Birth Order, only children are confident, organized, perfectionists, list-makers, scholarly, logical and self-assured. Translation for that last trait: cocky, arrogant and basically someone most folks at a party will want to punch in the face by 9pm. OK, now that sounds more like me, not Roger.

So yes, I’m an only child. I always assumed that was the root cause of plenty of my issues. But after reading The Birth Order, at least it does make a heck of a lot more sense. Apparently, the typical only child sets his/her bar way too high, which makes clearing said bar nearly impossible. That leads to a life filled with negative feelings about constantly falling short of one’s expectations. Yeah, yeah, pretty depressing for the only child. But the list of VIPs at the top – and plenty more like them – proves that only children can do very well in life.

As an only child with two children, it’s fascinating to watch a brother and sister deal with one another. It’s all foreign to me. I don’t understand the dynamic between siblings, since my only concern at their age was how many bologna sandwiches my mom would fix me and that night’s Nerf basketball title game. Only children are experts at playing with themselves … please, no punch lines. Whether it was a seven-game series for the Nerf World Championship or playing more than 160 games of Strat-O-Matic Baseball over three months of summer vacation, only children definitely know how to fill time creatively so they never feel, well, lonely.

What they don’t know how to do is fight for a parent’s attention. They don’t know how to perfectly time a punch in the back of the head to their sibling right when their parents turn their heads. And they don’t know how to hog the bathroom just long enough to start World War 3.

Man, I missed out. I’m serious. I always wished I had an older brother to make me tougher or a younger sister to protect from boys.

But all is not shiny, happy and warm in the sibling world. How many people do you know who never talk with their brother or only see their sister on a holiday or two each year? I know quite a few. Which makes absolutely no sense to an only. How could they possibly not get along their whole lives? How could they not go on skiing vacations together and plan big family reunions? Onlies are clueless in this area.

President Obama is a functional only child based on the definition in The Birth Order. You can be a functional only child if you’re the first-born and there are more than five years between you and your sibling. That means my daughter has something in common with the president, as her and her brother are five years apart. And, yes, the president and my daughter are both very stubborn when they don’t get their way. But I do like my girl’s health care plan better than Mr. Obama’s.

According to the book, there are two reasons you’re an only. The first is the “Special Jewel,” meaning your parents had trouble having a child, so they probably had you later in life. The second is the “Parental Plan,” meaning that your parents’ goal was to have a one and only you. Not surprisingly, I’m a “Special Jewel.” Yeah, quit laughing. I had older parents, and I’m as spoiled as they come. So I’m not to blame for my obvious obnoxious selfishness. I just never knew any better.

So let’s give the only children among us a break. You owe us an apology. Oh wait, we can’t hear you because we’re busy telling you how great we are.

You can now go back to pummeling your sister.

Rudy lives in Flower Mound, works in Fort Worth and plays everywhere in between. He has one wife, one daughter, one son, one published book, one obsession with sports and 20 million observations on marriage and children. Follow him on Twitter: Manifesto10.

Published January 2014