Sunday, July 23, 2006


The main article in this week's Guardian Weekend supplement was about only children, and was of course written by an only child.

The only thing that all only children have in common is that they are keen to deny that they have the typical character traits of only children. No, they are definitely NOT spoilt, selfish, bossy, and they DON'T think the world revolves around them.

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? I'm an only child, and it's something I've done myself.

My parents delayed starting a family until they could "afford" to - not easy, being lowpaid factory workers who had gone against type by lumbering themselves with a mortgage. My mother miscarried, and by the time she had me was a (then) ancient 36. She told me that giving birth was so excruciating that there was NO WAY that she would go through the experience again. So that was that. Another spoilt, selfish, bossy only child in the world.

I'm an introvert, so having brothers or sisters wouldn't have suited me at all - all that sharing and having people around you at all hours of the day. Very troublesome. I still view people who always crave company with suspicion. What are they running away from?

I've encountered only children who are extroverts, people who have siblings who are bossy and think the world revolves around them and shy, introverted people from big families.

The only thing I do think would have affected their personalities would have been if they had had parents like the children featured in the Guardian article. Most of them would have a mountain of hang ups by the time they reached adulthood.

One of the daughters has to attend a variety of out of school activities in the evenings, and is "allowed" Sundays off. Her mother says that she likes to think the daughter is not "silly". Blimey, childhood, best days of your life, eh? Another mum describes her daughter as "wonderful company" and one couple forbade their daughter to use baby talk at an early age. She has now been taught that she is an "equal" with negotiating powers.

I didn't really get much insight into what makes only children unique (if, indeed, that was the purpose of the article at all?) but I do realise that there are middle class professionals whose parenting methods are freakish, controlling or slightly MAD.

Which makes me look back to my common as muck upbringing and realise that I had a lucky escape.

I read that article too. God, those parents were terrifying.

I know a few only children and they are as different from each other as us with siblings are.

I thought I was interesting that because people expect only children to be either introverts or spoilt the parents try and compensate for this meaning they're often not.
My parents set out to confuse the people who write this sort of rubbish by having two children 14 years apart. So both of us were raised as only children - but we're not, in fact we're very close. I hate do-gooder parenting.
Equal negotiating powers? Oh dear, oh dear.
Ninetta Crummles, Dickens' "infant phenomenon" is alive and well.
I didn't realise that I was an only child until I was at least 18.
I was away from home for the first time and had to share a room with a swot who didn't like Jimi.
She soon moved out.
Billy - I can imagine why parents overcompensate by not spoiling children because of my own experience. Adults tended to say "I bet YOUR spoilt" in front of my mum and dad with alarming frequency and I bet it still goes on.

Rhino - yes, there is some sort of "right" way of how people are supposed to plan a family so that they end up with kids who are perfectly adjusted and the family home is full of joy and harmony.

Arabella - the girl I mentioned was negotiating with her parents to get a third pet rabbit, because she thought it was only fair that all three of them should have one, although her father had told her that he was "happy" to share one of the rabbits with her mother. Bloody hell.

Kaz - that's the ultimate test, having to share a room with someone, and is definitely the best thing about being an only child. I mean, it's inhumane, right?
I'd be curious to see how a child would develop if it was raised solely by reading The Guardian. Kind of like Daily Mail Island in TV Go Home, where the islanders only contact with the outside world is happy clappy Hippy left wing propoganda rag The Daily Mail.

I have a brother, but I'm still a miserable selfish spoilt little oik.

And I love the way it makes the point that Jesus was an only child! Like that makes a difference. Hitler had siblings, so... I MUST BE LIKE HITLER! They really should get their facts straight. Haven't they read the Da Vinci Code? Shoddy work all round.
Betty, I can't help getting serious on this one so perhaps I should 'get my coat'.
I hate parents who do parenting skills. What's wrong with love, food and warmth, and let the little bastards grow up in peace to become whatever the good lord planned for them.
My son is an only child and he is lovely, and I am not just saying that because I am his mom. You can ask anyone who knows him, go on ask!

I was an only child for 20 long, luxurious years and the only difference I noticed between being an only child and having siblings was that every bad behavioural trait I ever displayed (they were few and far between, but they happened) was blamed (by people other than my parents) on the fact that I was an only child! Indeed, the very fact that I *wasn't* a spoiled, selfish brat and yet *was* an only child really seemed to bother people, as if I were going against tradition. Happily, I now have a sister who can be a spoiled brat, so things have balanced out.
I read that article as well and I thought it was so rabidly middle class that it made me feel a little sick about the parents. I don't think it really matters how many siblings you have. I had 3 brothers and sisters (and I lived in a shoe) and I was still really introverted and spent much of my time alone. I think it is just the way you are that makes you, you. You can still feel totally 'single' in a crowd of people, who are laughing and singing. I think if you are going to be isolated, you will be. Maybe it's something in our make-up. Or our psyches.

I have one child...and people keep saying, 'Oh when are you going to have another, when are you going to have another.' I look at them and think, 'It's none of your business and it's not your decision.' They always look at me as if I have just stamped on a hamster's head when I say I don't particularly want anymore. I don't think my child will be disadvantaged as a result. Well, I hope not. She has all The Fall albums she can want...her favourite being 'Fall Heads Roll', can identify William Burroughs, T S Eliot and Jean Genet by sight. What's not to like about being an only child, she says.

I don't have negotiating stuff with her. She is just a little beanster who is lovely. Tis all about how much you love them. Whoever moaned about getting too much love as a child?
And she's only 2!
Del - strange thing is, you come across as being the opposite of "a miserable selfish spoilt little oik" on your blog, so perhaps you are a master of disguise and have a dark, evil side. Still, you can't show your real feelings to people when you grow up with siblings, eh? Look at Osama Bin Laden - he has about fifteen brothers and sisters doesn't he, and I bet he didn't get away with saying "death to the infidel" and all that at the dinner table.

Tom - as I've never wanted to have children myself, I wouldn't really want to pass judgement on the way people bring up their kids but there does seem to be a worrying trend towards people seeing their offspring as extensions of their own achievement in life. All those out of school activities and pushing them to study hard so they don't have time to themselves to use their imagination or initiative.

Helen - I'm sure he is. Not sure about myself though ...

Lost Boy - it's strange how people always keep their opinions to themselves on most subjects but are never backwards in coming forwards if there is something to say about people's families. My cousin had one child and went through a really awful pregnancy that put her at risk of ending up in a wheelchair because she suffered from back trouble. The baby was only about a year old when my cousin's mother was already nagging at her to have another child because the baby needed company, so she ended up going throught he whole process again just to keep her quiet!

Molly - thinking about it, if I'd had brothers or sisters I might have become even more introvert, especially if they were more outgoing and received more attention from my parents. Who knows? My parents tried to get me to socialise with my cousins (there were loads of them) but it didn't work.

I wonder how I'd have grown up if my parents had read William Burroughs to me as they dandled me on their knee, rather than pointing me in the direction of Enid Blyton ... by the way, have you seen the Krautrock baby at http://www.troubled-diva.com/xtra/
i swear that stereotype was made up by resentful kids from multi-sibling households who had to wear hand me down clothes. get a grip, ya whiners.

why yes, i was an only child.
well, i let the chicklets have sundays off too (because i've told them i'm not expecting them to do advanced maths 'a' level until they're 7)

their mensa applications were in whilst they were still in utero (natch)
Usually I like reading such articles because I love pointing out imperiously that all the kids mentioned are upper middle and have parents in the arts, so I can start in on the 'and I bet they think their chums are so different ...' sneer.
But this one didn't say what the parents' jobs were, and I was stumped. I had to sneer that the kids in the photos looked like right spoilt upper middle arts brats instead.

I'm reading something else next week.
First Nations - well, I'm an only child and I had to wear hand me down clothes from my cousins, and my clothes were subsequently handed down to other cousins. Not that I'm bitter, oh no.

Urban Chick - I hope you're considering which of the Oxford Universities to send them to when they get to about ten ... or would Harvard be a better choice?

Sarsprilla - well, all of the children have names like Annia, Amelia and Georgina ...

All my friends from school had 8 or 9 kids in their families.

3-4 children is still seen as a 'small' family.
I too am a "unique" child, and I am bossy and I probably was a bit spoilt. However, I do maintain that the world actually does revolve around me, thank you very much.

One of my cousins is also an only child and a few years ago we had a lovely drunken evening with our parents, where we berated them for the fact that we are only children and that we had no-one to play with/use as a diversion when we were at fault.

I still maintain that buying an only child a board game, or anything that requires more than one player, is tantamout to cruelty, especially when your parents are fussy about which of your friends are allowed to come round and play.

Bitter, moi?
Spinsterella - I was told that years ago Catholics who only had small families used to receive visits from priests asking them why they weren't having more children. My uncle who is a lapsed Catholic received such a visit and told the priest in no uncertain terms where to get off to.

Kellycat - weird thing is, I've never regretted having any brothers or sisters or felt lonely when I was growing up. Mind you, I'm a socialphobic, sociopathic, socio a lot of other things, so it's not surprising.
Betty, that is indeed true.

If a couple have been newly married for, say, a year with 'no sign', it's assumed that there are 'problems'.
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