Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of a kind

I never knew people held stereotypes about only children. I mean, sure, I could see how an only child could wind up bossy and spoiled. I could also see how an only child could wind up just the opposite. It seemed like there was a danger of your kid turn out bratty if he or she were an only child, and I could see how that danger would be greater in such cases, but it never struck me as any kind of inevitable consequence. If you're an indulgent parent with lax discipline, you're probably going to have a bratty kid if you have one kid or ten. I was an only child (raised by a wolf pack and later, a panther and a bear) and I turned out pretty okay.

(Okay that last sentence isn't true. Obviously I didn't turn out okay. I mean, look at me.)

We were pretty sure when she was born that Lily would be an only child. Of course my mom started pestering us for another grandchild as soon as they were wheeling Jen out of the delivery room, but this was something else. We occasionally get the "When are you having the next one?" question, but that seemed like an extension of the "When are you having kids?" question that had followed us since marriage. and our families have generally been understanding our of decision. (Or at least accepting that they would be unable to influence it)

Someone we know has boy/girl fraternal twins. Someone else we know has two kids close in age, the daughter about two years older than the son. I think either of those would have overjoyed us, but that's just not how things worked out.

This was on my mind because I caught a Radio Times podcast "Rethinking 'Only' Children". (They had the only in quotes). One of the things they mentioned is that there is no one else to "dilute" the attention of the parents, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. (Or more accurately will be a good thing and a bad thing.)

(Also, it's come to my attention that I tend to use too many parenthesizes when writing. (Though I prefer to think that I use too few))

Anyway, the show went on to say that only children are, generally more mature, because they don't have any peers at home to serve as behavioral role models, so they use their parents for this yardstick. This also tends to lead towards a better vocabulary and problem solving skills.

It said that "singletons" (the term preferred by one researcher) also tend to try to bring similar age cousins into an ad hoc family unit. Lily adores her cousin Joey who's got a couple months on her. She also adores her cousin KK, who is ten years older. She adores her aunt Lori too. I don't know if Lily's love for Joey is search for a sister or just the quest for a playmate.

One thing they touched on was mourning, that an only child will have to mourn his or her parents without siblings. And presumably an adult will have a support system with a spouse and friends and relatives outside the nuclear family, but they're not really the same.

Hmmm...that's kind of a downer. How to end this on a high note? I think we're doing pretty okay with Lily so far. She's got a good head on her shoulders and she's kind to smaller kids and no more bossy than any other three-year-old. She's not spoiled (despite the best efforts of our family) and she really tries to help other people, kids and adults alike. We could be doing a lot worse.

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