“My father had 7 siblings but had abusive parents, to this day none of the siblings are in touch with each other due to their childhood. My mother is an only child and has loving parents, I never once heard her complain about being an only.
My daughter will be an only and I hope to God she does not have that pathetic chip on her shoulder like some only adult children do. You make your own life in this world don’t blame it on not having siblings.
All I can say to only children, would you rather have abusive parents but had a sibling! Would that have completed your life? Really? Or would you chose having parents that loved you over a sibling?”
This was sent from a mother of an only, who has three siblings and is typical of some of the emails I receive. I am always taken aback by the anger expressed in this type of email, especially as I do not think my previous post was ‘insulting’ to only-child adults as this writer claimed.
I have always tried to put both sides of the story, but I often find that anything, which suggests only-children do not have some sort of idyllic life with loving and doting parents, brings out anger in some people. As humans we all have our challenges and as I said in my last post, we can choose to be victims or survivors of the experience and also have the choice to be the author our own lives as adults.
However, what I do find somewhat irritating, is this need to say that only-children have it easy, or they are lucky to have all their parents’ attention, and lucky not to suffer from abusive siblings. I also include in this the accusation that we whinge unnecessarily about our ‘only’ status. Why is it so hard for some people with siblings to have any empathy with what can be the negative side of being brought up an only child? As it tends to be mothers of only-children (and of course not all are like this!) I suspect that they, as mothers, are suffering from the stigma of having an only-child, which is still so prevalent in some societies.
I have always stated that insisting that the experience of only-children is not only positive, but also preferable, does not help to diminish the stigma. This idealism also negates the experience of those adult onlies who have not had such a great only-child upbringing, have felt lonely or caught up in their parent’s relationship and have put their own life on hold to fulfil the expectations of their parents.
I am pleased that this writer believes she is giving to her own only-child, the childhood she would have preferred herself. But perhaps like the writer’s mother, her child will not feel entitled, as an adult-only, to have any negative feelings about her childhood. Parents’ do their best, but no one is perfect and when there are no siblings to dilute the parental relationship, it can become hard to be the only one holding all the ideals and expectations of the family.
The writer reminds me that, as many of us find, if you say anything negative about being an only-child, you will often receive a number of dismissive comments from those people who did not get along with their siblings or feel they did not receive enough parental attention.
So the message is: keep quiet about being an only or suffer the consequences!
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