My oldest son has a friend who is an only. As in an only child. I was an only...the only child in a house of grown-ups. The only child at the dinner table. The only child in the room for adult conversations. The only child to want to play a game or make up her own random rules to that game. The only child to dictate how a lazy afternoon was spent. The only child to pick the movie. The only child to garner the attention.
I never learned about sacriice or compromise.
I watch my children at play with each other and especially my son with his "only" friend. My kids have learned that you compromise with the ones you love. You take turns having your way. You sacrifice your desires for another person's and they return the favor because they love you. At least that's what my son believes. He becomes so frustrated with his friend.
"Mom, how can he say we're best friends when he won't ever do what I want to do? I do what he wants all the time and he can't ever just do it my way. How can we really be friends at all?"
Of course those feelings of hurt and frustration fade because the other thing you learn in a house full of brothers and sisters is that we forgive the ones we love.
I look around me and families with one or two kids. Then I look at my kids. How will they have relationships with kids who don't play by the same rules that they have learned at home? I want to think that they are far better off for the things they are learning in a larger family, but am I only fooling myself? Will they be doormats for others in their worlds, always willing to compromise and give in? Or are they learning valuable lessons early in life that will help them to be better eqipped for long lasting relationships?