Monday, June 15, 2009

Being An Only Child

Disclaimer:  This post is not meant to be judgmental towards families who have only one child.  There are a host of reasons why some couples either choose or find themselves in the position of raising an only child…many are happy and healthy families!  These are just my rambling thoughts on the subject…

Grace is an only child.  I have finally made peace that my childbearing years are behind me, although I’m sure Todd and I will always grieve the fact that we cannot bear more children.  On our journey, we have found that there are several parenting challenges that seem to be magnified by the fact that Grace has no siblings.

Many people who grew up as the only child will tell you that there are lots of benefits…more individual time and attention from parents, feeling special, not having to share possessions, more financial freedom for the family to do special things, etc.  

However, there are lots of drawbacks as well.  These became more apparent to me over the last week.  Here’s a few that come to mind:

  1. Less opportunity for the parents to teach empathy for others.  Let’s face it.  When you are an only child, it’s all about you.  You don’t have to share a bedroom, a bathroom, or a playroom.  You get all of your parent’s attention, and while at times this can be good, it can also lead to an unhealthy feeling of entitlement.  When there are siblings, there are tons of opportunities for parents to reinforce loving others, caring for others, problem-solving skills, and sharing. 
  2. Loneliness.  As I’ve talked with others (including my husband) who were only children, this has been the most-mentioned challenge.  I can (somewhat) relate since I grew up with brothers who were not interested in Barbie dolls or Easy-Bake ovens.  I always dreamed of a sister that would share my same interests.  When I’m busy, Grace is lonely and is forced to learn how to entertain herself.  (I guess that’s not entirely bad…)
  3. Less developed social skills.  This is not true for all only children, but it is true for Grace.  Less interaction with children has been one of the factors in her insecurity/fear when she is placed in situations where there are lots of other kids (Sunday School, parks, mall playgrounds, parties, etc.).  We are trying to counter this by getting her around others as much as possible through church activities, play dates, and outings.
  4. Less independence.  Since Grace is the only child, I’m much quicker to swoop in and solve her problems than I would be if I were balancing my attention among other children.  I am purposefully mindful of letting her struggle and figure things out for herself at times, but my tendency is to come to the rescue.  That’s not always a good thing.  A little struggle is good, so I know that I need to let her try, fail, and learn on her own in order to gain some independence. 
  5. Caring for aging/dying parents.  I can’t help but feel bad that Grace is going to have to choose a nursing home all by herself.  She won’t have a sibling to share the burden of dealing with my impending senility!

There are other issues, but this post is long enough already.  I guess I’ve just been thinking about it more lately because we’ve been in situations where I’ve witnessed more of the above traits in Grace.  And it just gets me to thinking, which is always dangerous. 

I certainly don’t want to seem ungrateful for having only one child.  The good Lord knows how thankful we are after so many years of praying for a baby!  But there are certain challenges that are unique to raising just one child, and I think it’s important to recognize them and deal with them honestly.

1 comment:

jennifer said...

I am an only child and I get where you are coming from. Mom and Dad chose for me to be an only child (well- mom did :)!). I remember LOVING going to friends houses where there was a little brother or sister. In fact, I sometimes liked spending more time with them than my friend! They also had me around lots of kids like church and community events. But the best help probably were summer camps- a whole week with kids my age!
Hang in there.... I know where Grace is coming (and good insurance helps with the aging parent thing :)!!)