I’ve just read the article ‘Spoilt or spoiled’ in Therapy Today (April 2006) and felt moved to relate my own story. My only-child experience came about through being an illegitimate child born in the 1950’s. Placed in children’s home for the next 9 months or so certainly destroyed any hopes of a secure attachment.
Eventually I was adopted, but remained an only child, as my adoptive parents were not able to take on any more children, as I was decreed by the social worker ‘quite a handful.’ Quite a damning label to have.
Sadly, both for my adoptive parents and the resultant knock-on effect on myself that the realisation of being unable to have your own children had never been resolved. In fact it remains unresolved to this day and my ‘mother’ refers to the fact that she couldn’t have her own children nearly every time I see her.
So, I appear on the scene and play 2nd fiddle. You can tell by now the deep emotional scars I carry, but the story doesn’t end there. It was only a matter of time before I; the ‘special, wanted child’ failed to deliver. The expectations of my new family were just unattainable for me. As a result I became the useless, stupid, troublesome child, who could never do anything right. Even when I was ill I would be reprimanded. I remember one time (I think I was about 6 or 7) when I had been sick in bed in the middle of the night and made a terrible mess. I was chided for creating such a lot of work and why didn’t I get up first. No concern or compassion regarding how I felt. I think I decided then that if ever I was ill I would try to say nothing, and even to this day I tend to dismiss any unwell feelings I might have, at least to others.
Certainly I can identify with the spoilt only child syndrome, although as in the article I see myself as spoiled in the sense of damaged goods. I still hate having to admit that I have no siblings and my sense of self-worth is pretty low. Rejected by my natural mother and then again by my adoptive parents I marvel at how I manage to keep going. Well I do know – it’s for my two children. Here’s some more shame – I’m divorced so I don’t live with my children, although I know I have meaning for them.
The loneliness of the isolation is at times devastating and yet I feel powerless to be able to change how I am. Being on my own seems to be the safer option, if somewhat meaningless. I find relationships, at least with adults, challenging, confusing and unreliable. I guess I have not had the opportunities to learn how to interact with siblings as I didn’t have any. I suppose I don’t really know how to relate socially and perhaps never will. And of course no one understands. How could they – they all have brothers or sisters.