by on August 26, 2011

in Bernice responds

This is the continuing dialogue with Martie in a ‘Dialogue with a parent of an only-child’.
I was raised as the youngest of four, and as an only child of my parents; my siblings are my half-siblings. I have spent a good deal of my life wondering what it would have been like to have a “true” sibling, feeling like I missed out on something. Hence, I have deep concern for raising our daughter as an only child.

As time has passed, I have come to realize that in all honesty, I do have three siblings, two brothers and one sister. And like many people with siblings, my husband included, I am not close to them, and they are not close to each other. We all have very different personalities, different interests, and we live states apart from one another.

Most of my friends are not close to their siblings either. For most people I know in my life, their friends become their family and that gives me solace, for my self and for our daughter I do appreciate the work you are doing, especially because I can relate to it. At the same time, I do believe that it is important to give light to the positive side, as you intend to do. Also important is to break the myth that having siblings automatically makes one “belong” to the world and eliminates loneliness. It can, but maybe not to the degree that one may think.

If you can find a way in corporate my email into your work, I am glad to contribute; it may shed some light for someone. Martie

Bernice Responds

Thank you for your reply it has really got me thinking.
I was intrigued by your wish to have a ‘real’ sibling what was that like? You were in an interesting position in sort of ‘half’ having siblings yet you still wondered what it would be like to have a ‘real’ sibling. What were your fantasies presumably it was somehow more positive than the real thing? Clearly you have thought a great deal abut this and come to you conclusions re: loneliness even with siblings and the need for friends.

From my interviews and material I have gathered from adult only children – one of the main disadvantages is often stated as not having anyone to compare how you experience your parents, or how you see them relating towards another sibling.

I imagine in your position you were able to see how your parents related to ‘other’ siblings but then perhaps you felt it was different for you?

I am not sure I will be making much sense here but as an only myself it is difficult to imagine my parents with another sibling. Only children can observe adult children reactions only in other families, but have no perspective from which to assess their own, thus making it difficult to judge how fair or right parents’ are being. I think this leads to many onlies having a very unclear sense of their ‘family’ which is even more of a problem if it is relatively dysfunctional.

I also think the more dysfunctional the family the greater the impact if you are the only one, as there are no siblings to dilute the situation…

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