Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Only Children

Amongst my friends in New Zealand are a married couple kind of from the US. I say kind of, because the husband is originally from Poland, but moved to the US in his mid to late teenage years. His wife is an original US citizen, of German ancestry. They have a very lovely son, who is mad keen on Harry Potter, and a budding magician. Needless to say, he and I get along splendidly.

Each parent is an only child, and I was quite surprised by something that came up in a conversation with them not that long before I left last year. They had been discussing whether to have any other children, but had decided that it would not be fair to do so until their son was older, e.g. in his teens. They reckoned that every child should enjoy the benefit of feeling like they are special, and mean more to their parents than anyone or anything else. I wasn't, and am still not, comfortable with this line of thinking, so I thought I would share it to see whether anyone else thought there was something wrong there.

I can understand where it comes from, and feel sorry for them that, not having had the advantages of siblings, they don't know what they missed out on, and what they are therefore "depriving" their children of. At the same time, I acknowledge that since I'm not an only child myself, I don't have an appreciation of what it's like to be an only child. However, having known many people in that boat, only children always seemed like they lost more than they gained.

Fine, you feel special to your parents. Do you care at that age? Your parents aren't going to get down in the dirt with you and play with your toy cars. A brother or sister would. A parent isn't going to be naughty with you, or have the kind of fun that kids have together. I suspect having just one little angle to dote on is better for the parents than it is for the kid.

I'd also take issue with what I think is somewhat short-sighted, if not negligent thinking, about the waiting until the first son is a teenager. By that time, there is no chance of the same kind of sibling relationship that I had with my siblings when I was growing up. It would be more like the relationship I have with my youngest brother and sister (14 and 15 years younger than me), and that's more being an uncle than being a brother. It's fun, and I get a lot out of those relationships, but it's not the same as the sibling relationship I have with the brother and sisters I grew up with. The rationale for waiting until the first son is a teenager is so that the new baby can feel special, and like their mom and dad's pride and joy, the only thing in their world, etc. Does this mean that the teenage son is dismissed as, well, a teenager, who probably wouldn't want much attention from the parents, so let's just ignore him and allow him to do his own thing? Something not quite right there.


Your thoughts, if you have any ...?

13 comments:

First Nations said...

i think you've got it about right.
i was an only child and i would have liked for the spotlight to have been off me for a few moments, you know? let someone else get in trouble for a change!

Hanuman1960 said...

I agree with you. I have two sisters (both younger) one is two years younger and the other eight years younger. I am MUCH closer to the sister who is only two years younger than me!

I think that they shouldn't wait. Depending on how old the boy is, it may already be too late...

Da Nator said...

It seems like an odd little theory they worked out. Who am I to say if they're right or wrong, although I think if my parents had a baby when I was a teen I'd be right squicked out ("Oh my GAAAWD - will you stop having sex? Gee-ross!"). Considering your family, you might feel differently.

I'm the youngest of three blood siblings, though I've had several step families, as my parents divorced when I was about 6. My older brother was 8 years older, and I had a limited relationship with him growing up, due partly to age and gender difference and other factors (we get along very well now). My sister was 6 years older, and we were much closer - she liked to play my second mother, but in a nurturing, not bossy way.

Of course, of all my step siblings (I only count 8, although there were something like 5 others I never lived with) I was closest to those closest to my age. My best friend growing up was my stepsister who is only a few months older than me, so perhaps that says something.

Of course, she and I were diddling each other as children, too... Er, but perhaps you'd best not tell your friends about that.

Dan Project 76 said...

It sounds a bit weird to me!

CyberPete said...

It's an odd theory. I wasn't that much in focus and I was pretty much an only child considering from the age of 5 I only had one brother and he is 10 years older than me. We had nothing to say to each other back then. He picked me up from school if he had to but hated the sight of me, and it was a mutural feeling that hasn't changed much. We had a few good years but not like brothers. It was an odd cousin thing I suppose.

Jay said...

My sister's only 4 years older than me, but she's always acted like a third parent, instead of a sibling cum partner-in-crime. I guess seeing as I was such a child, she had no choice but to be the more responsible offspring.

We used to fight all the time, and there were many, many occasions when I wished I WAS a bloody only kid.

But now we get along just fine. Maybe it's because we've got several thousand miles between us, but I've learnt to appreciate her - even admire her for all that she's achieved.

It does help that she gives me rather expensive presents.

frobisher said...

My sister is seven years older than me and I did miss out on a playmate/friend, in fact by the time I was 10 she had moved out. We are close now, but I do feel like I missed out a bit.

Tell your friends in no uncertain terms that they are wrong!

Limehouse Dan said...

It'll do a kid no good thinking it can go through life thinking attention and care will fall on it like rain...

x

Jemima said...

I always assumed my parents had such a horrible time with me they couldn't bear risking another child. I have no self esteem as a direct consequence of being an only child. And I struggle to communicate with people (you know those ones that exist outside the internet in the "world") because I lack the blueprint that should've been laid down by siblings in my infancy.

Although I quite like being an anti-social grouch.

Does that help?

Qenny said...

The concensus seems to me that having siblings around one's own age is usually A Good Thing. I think, alas, it is too late in this case, because the little boy is now 10. I must tell my youngest sister to have another baby as soon as possible so's my gorgeous little niece has a brother or sister to play with.

Dan Project 76 said...

She could always steal an older child like Angelina Jolie did.

Or maybe not...

JP said...

I've missed the boat on this one, but my brother and sister are both around ten years older than I; I didn't have much of a relationship with them as a result, until I reached my mid twenties. I felt like an only child because my siblings were so much older; I constantly longed to be part of their world.

The zillion spawn they are both generating are all close together in age and have a very close relationship.

Your friends are clearly bonkers.

Having said that I don't think people should be brought up to feel 'special' and 'unique'; I think it's one of the problems with the environment today. There are too many of us crawling around for us all to be feeling like we deserve the world on a plate.

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