Sunday, September 26, 2010


In comparison to Europe, American culture seems to bear a lot more grudges against only children and their parents. Nobody stops twice asking Do you plan to have another one? question and explaining to you how bad it is for the child to grow up without a sibling. Some time ago I stumbled upon The Only Child: Debunking the Myths article on It explains fairly well how the whole idea of only children as lonely, selfish and maladjusted individuals came about. What amused me was another epithet that was added to the standard list – single children tend to be overly intellectual. Apparently, it’s as bad for anyone to be “overly intellectual” in America as it was in the former Soviet Union. But I digress. One thing is clear and highlighted in the article – “studies showed that singletons aren't measurably different from other kids — except that they, along with firstborns and people who have only one sibling, score higher in measures of intelligence and achievement.” Why? The article and experience (both as a single child and a mother of one) tell me it’s because the expectations are higher. Single children are given undivided attention, but as Luke put it, “Much will be required from everyone to whom much has been given”. I do have high expectations of my daughter – not necessarily in the form of tangible achievement, but in how I expect her to behave and how I expect her to interact with people around her. I want her to be confident but respectful, I want her to believe in her abilities and I want her to believe in benevolent and plentiful Universe. The danger that I see is not in whether she will be selfish and maladjusted, but whether she ends up feeling pressured. Luckily, so far she has been pretty successful in pushing back when she feels pressure – a true daughter of her father. I hope to continue to balance love and expectations as we go through an adventure of raising an only child in the culture that is so different in many ways from our own.


Phyllis said...

You know, with five children, we get the rude remarks, too. To the point that people ask me if I understand how to prevent it. Like I didn't want them. It seems that if you do not have two children exactly, you are open to criticism.

Ticia said...

I'll agree with Phylliss comment. If you don't have the expected two or if they're too close together you get comments that way

I would think one of the big challenges is for her not to think she's the center of everything with no one to share mom and dads attention. I know I noticed that with friends who started out with just one baby because that child was use to just getting moms attention and then they adjusted once a second was born

But I've never had one kid so I'm speaking without experience

Christy said...

There is a rude comment for everything. Collin and Reagan are 19 months apart and people criticized that. The worst though is that everyone wants to know why we have a seven year gap between Tyler and Collin. People have been bold enough to ask me if they have the same father or if I had trouble getting pregnant. Why is any of that important to them? People are crazy and nosy! All that matters is that you love your child. It seems to me that Anna is growing up just fine!!!

Joyful Learner said...

I've had plenty of only children in my class and I can say that they turn out fine! One of my favorite student was an only and he was kind, considerate, well-liked, intelligent, and mature! So, I don't worry too much about the myths. But having an only does come with challenges. I want JC exposed to different families and different people so I have to make more of an effort to socialize even though I'm introverted. We do a lot of trips with friends which is fun not just for her but for us too.

She does expect a lot of attention from us which I think is okay because who she's able to play alone or play with others when need be.

We expect a lot too but like you, I try to balance it out with just plain fun so she's not missing out on her childhood. I love her fun-loving nature and don't want her to grow up serious like I did as a kid.

Debbie said...

I have walked in both shoes, raising two children the first time around and now raising the only child with Selena.

We live in a society where people just plain judge no matter what you do, no matter how many children you have, and they are quick to give their opinion.

As far as being an only child, or having an only child, they do not have to be any of the negatives that you pointed out from the research you read. As I see it with Selena, she is more self reliant on her skills to entertain herself, where as my two older children, depended on each other to entertain each other. She is a self thinker, where many times the other two fought over who was right and who was wrong, they were more concerned in what others thought, then truly what was important to them. Selena is more content when I am not able to give her the attention at that very moment, where as my two children fought constantly over who would get my attention and when as well as for how long.

I guess Natalie, it comes back to the fact that the decision of having one child, two children or more is a personal decision. We will all do what is best for our children. We also have to come to terms we are not expected to meet the expectations of the society, but the expectations of our own family unit. People are not going to ever stop giving opinions, ask questions, so we have to take an active stand to just ignore it. With that comes the knowing that we or our family unit is perfect just the way it is.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Bwa-ha-ha, I'm still laughing at Phylis' comment - too funny. I can't tell you the number of times I've had people on the street say - "You know how that happens, don't you" - I just smile, and say "Clearly :)"

I do have to say, our parenting style has changed dramatically from our first to our last. We had really high expectations for our first, and put a lot of energy "teaching" him, and watching over him.

I come from a large, spread out, family, and my husband comes from a traditional, two child, family - and in the end, I think we turned out about the same in most respects - so maybe it doesn't matter.

MaryAnne said...

I agree with the other people who said that, in America, you get comments if you have anything other than two children. Three children is acceptable if the third is a different gender from the first two, but not if you already had a girl and a boy (like me). And I'll never forget my fourth grade teacher who told me that my parents should stop overpopulating the world (in front of the entire class)...

I think the health, performance, and well-being of children has more to do with the parents and parenting than any other factor. And Anna is clearly a well-cared for child with a strong sense of self, so I think she is very likely to have a wonderful life!

Anne@LittleSproutBooks said...

Thank you for pointing out the bit about expectations. Whether children are onlies or come from huge families, they will likely behave as their parents expect them to.

Our Homeschool Fun said...

I agree with a lot of what has been said in these comments. People are always (unfortunately) going to have rude remarks and questions that are not any of their business. I get asked all the time why the big age gap between Hanna and Joe, when are we going to stop having kids, why would we want more, why do we homeschool, when am I sending the kids back to school. Oh Natalie, the list never ends. I have started to be quite blunt and bold in my answers. I figure if they have the audacity to ask, then I will give them a very honest answer.

Decisions like this are no one's business. They are strictly between husband and wife and belong in the walls of your own home.

Like I said last week, Anna is loved and secure and being an only child has no bearing on that whatsoever, it has to do with parenting and the home environment she is raised in.

Now, that's way more than my "two cents worth" :-)!

Eva said...

I know what you mean about being constantly asked if we plan on having another child. So far A is our only child and I think people forget that even if we do want another child it is ultimately out of our control. We've been trying to have another but I guess some kids are meant to be onlies. Some people can't even have one child. Some people may have ten. I think people stress about it too much and I'm surprised that people haven't accepted the fact that its very possible and natural for everyone has a different number of children.