The ‘Great’ Only Child Debate

Parents of Only Children BEWARE: Everyone has an opinion

“If you’re not prepared to have two children, you’re better off not having one at all.”

Such would be my introduction to the fact people have very, very strong feelings on the wisdom and practicalities of single child households.

My wife and I looke at each other, then at Kaia–who was hardly more than four months at the time and sleeping, oblivious to the apparent perils of her pending sibling less future—and then back at the source of such passionate words of wisdom.

He was not a doctor, a child psychologist, an aspiring anthropologist, a friend of a friend or, for that matter, not even so much as an acquaintance.

This was the pool fence guy…in for a ten minute inspection of our backyard deck and pool area so as to give us a quote on what we needed to do to satisfy Queensland’s stringent pool fence regulations.

Suddenly, it seemed, we were getting quite a bit more than we’d been expecting.

Not surprisingly, we’d soon learn the poor bugger was an only child and one, who made it abundantly clear, was still dealing with the traumatic ramifications of the fact.

What those actual traumas were, neither my wife nor I dared ask, though the pool guy was pretty emphatic he was still dealing with them.

Personally, I didn’t know much on the subject at the time, but, even so, I had to agree with him that he had issues; at least if he thought such condemning comments were the wisest path to pursue while simultaneously trying to get our business.

Since that time, however, I’ve come to know better and, it should be added, with very little internet research of my own. Subtle questioning, innuendo and ever so slight shakes of the head from well-intentioned friends, family and, yes, more strangers, over the past couple years have drilled into us what we can expect for…not jumping at the prospect of ‘expecting’ ever again.

The general consensus being, in addition to our being selfish in such single minded thinking, apparently Kaia, as an only child, is destined (some may even say, doomed) to be spoiled, lonely, narcissistic and socially inept. It’s a heavy label to hang on anyone but with China’s one child policy, U.S. Census Bureau figures showing single child household having doubled in the past 50 years and half of British families today comprised of only one child, at least we’re bound to have plenty of company.

Plenty of company with plenty of reasons for propagating the notion that, sometimes, less really is more.

Reasons including but not limited to financial and/or physical health issues, desire to travel, educational advantages, time constraints, fears over pregnancy, advanced age, and infertility. And the list goes on.

As do statistics from various studies pecking and banging away at the long held only child personality trait stereotypes that can be traced back to the late 1800s when prominent child psychologist G. Stanley Hall claimed “being an only child a disease in and of itself.”

To the contrary, more recent studies strongly suggest only children tend to be excellent students, more motivated, have higher self-esteem, and more gifted socially than those of sibling strapped households.

Of course, the point could be debated ad-nauseam.

However, the point is only children including the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Ted Koppel, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Updike, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Joe Montana, Charles Lindberg, Indira Ghandi, Nancy Reagan, Robin Williams, Carol Burnett, Leonardo de Vinci, Bill Bradley, Condoleezza Rice, Steve Allen and countless others like them prove negative stereotypes packaged into clever clichés such as ‘One Child Syndrome’ definitely don’t automatically define one’s destiny.

The plain fact is, sometimes being a kid just isn’t easy regardless of whether you’re an only or not. Just ask my younger brother. Having siblings can be a real bitch. And if he’s still too bitter to speak, I’ve got the physical scars that will vouch for it.

Scars, come to think of it, that probably would’ve saved the pool fence guy some time in therapy.



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