Monday, July 07, 2008

One Great Child

I was at the pool over the holiday weekend, and someone from my community, who I don't know, spotted Seth in the pool and asked if he was my only one?

I found myself feeling defensive. Not just for myself as a mom, but protective in a sense for Seth. I quickly and thoughtfully responded, "Why do people say only one? As if he's not enough. I prefer to think of it as I am the mom to 'one great child.'"

I asked if he had any children. He took a moment, and interestingly responded, "I have one great child."

I laughed. He smiled.

It got me thinking. Why is it that one of the most common questions from complete strangers is, is he your only one? And, it often feels like it's said with a grain of sadness, as if the child is deprived.

Where did the phrase Only Child come from to begin with?

In my circle of "later mom" friends, there are many with one child. And, we don't think of ourselves or our children as lacking. I am grateful for my one son.

I know there are many discussions re: the pros and cons of being an only child. And, there are those of the school of thought that a child should have a sibling to grow up and old with. Especially so if they are conscious of their own mortality as a later mom. But, in my book, there is no guarantee siblings will be close, and I don't feel any more pressure as a later mom. It's not just blood that cements a relationship through the years.

I have many friends, for whatever reason, who are only children, and none are sad. They are cool, accomplished women, with a strong circle of friends who they cherish, perhaps even more so because they don't have a sibling. Most are close to extended family members as well. Each has successfully made their way in the world, despite having grown up as an only child.

It is a very personal decision to have children to begin with. And, on top of it, how many you would like to raise is another oh so personal question.

Newsweek recently ran a thought-provoking article entitled "Who Says Kids Make You Happy?" by Lorraine Ali. It's worth a read.

Some couples or individuals choose to live a child-free existance altogether. Does that make them selfish? Some might say. But, who is to say?

So, whether you choose to parent one child or more or none at all, there is more than one way to live a fulfilled life.

I have no doubt my son will grow into a happy adult who will find his personal path. And, despite being raised with no siblings, he will not want. He knows he is loved, and that is the most important thing a "later" or any parent can provide.

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Blogger Susan Newman, Ph.D. said...

Thought you might be interested in the only child information on my Psychology Today magazine blog called Singletons in the Parenting section of Blogs. It covers everything only child: deciding, raising, being, stereotypes...

Since the likelihood that older mothers will have one child is good, perhaps your website and blog readers would be interested in some of the posts as well:

Is One Child the New Traditional Family?

Who Will Care for You?

Plays Well with Others (Are siblings necessary?)
Lots more to come.

Susan Newman, Ph.D.

6:57 AM  

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