At the risk of getting all “Mama Grizzly” I will tell you that I am beyond tired of the comments thrown our way about how our daughter is this or that way because she is an “only child.” And no, folks aren’t chalking her numerous awesome qualities to the fact that she has no siblings. At times, her singleton status was used to explain positive qualities such as the times her otherwise sweet kindergarten teacher ascribed Z’s exemplary vocabulary to “you know, she’s an only child.” Her K teacher said this with a definite negative slant. With a flavor of “your conversing with your daughter has given her the horrible handicap of too many words when she should be engaged in more developmentally appropriate activities such as paste-eating.”

And on occasion, I’ve had people ask me, “Why do you only have one child?” These are not close friends.  These are people who I am meeting for the first time. Thankfully, I am old enough that people don’t ask me this anymore. But my stock response to the question of “Why do you only have one child?” is “Because one is all we have.”  Most people understand that this kind of circular answer is code for “you are asking an overly personal question” and they stop.

So is it really true that single childhood is a burden we give to our children?

Fact: Research shows an advantage for only children in terms of ultimate educational attainment. (No, an association does not mean that no one from a large family can get a Ph.D., says the 5th of 6th children, who has a Ph.D. It’s a probability thing, not an absolute relationship. That’s the way research is–there are almost always exceptions.)

Another Fact: Any general social advantage that children with siblings might show in kindergarten, goes away a couple of years later.

Another Fact: Zoey is an individual. Even if it were true that only children don’t know how to share or are more selfish she has proven this not to be the case with her:
Zoey was the leader of the “change the world club” that met at recess at her school. They carried around notebooks and brainstormed ideas for alternative energy sources. This club started in grade 2, when she was 7 years old. Nobody suggested this idea to her. It was a cause and club that she initiated.
Zoey started her own fundraiser after worrying about world hunger. She did a read-a-thon, called relatives, went door to door, talked to her teachers and principals. She raised $1800 for Heifer International. How old was she? She was 8 years old.
Fast forward to 6th grade, when Zoey was 11. One of the girls at school didn’t have enough money to go to the Disneyland trip with the band. Zoey started a fundraiser and put in $50 of HER OWN MONEY. She ended up raising $200. The girl’s parents were inspired to chip in the rest of the money. I was kind of surprised that they didn’t return the kids’ money especially since they live in an expensive part of town. (Maybe they were only children or something.)
Zoey has participated in the Big Climb to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for the past two years.

And yes, I get it that she will not have sibling relationships after we die. That does worry me. But she does have deep and wonderful relationships with her cousins.

Okay, so if you have a problem with my kid, her quirkiness, loudness, the fact that she can run hot and cold, talks too much about Futurama, or any other quality that might rub you the wrong way, don’t blame it on the fact that she is an only child and therefore more selfish, less empathetic, or more socially maladroit. Everyone has quirks, even ME, THE GIRL WITH FIVE BROTHERS. Plus, she has about a million positive qualities. How about focusing on them and just enjoy her as she is. It should be easy. You don’t even have to remind her to do her homework or clean up after herself.

As a child/adolescent psychologist, I can tell you that there’s almost never one reason why someone is the way that he/she is. Pat explanations can be harmful. In my job I hear them all of the time, “There’s no such thing as ADHD, some kids are just brats and lazy. There’s no so thing as learning disability;  those kids are just looking for crutches when the real problem is that they are not smart enough”, etc. Those kinds of comments, especially at this time, they can act like a rasp to the heart strings of this Blog writer who is just trying to get through a stressful week before surgery, irrationally afraid that she will be too sick and tired later this summer to be a good mother to her teen girl, and who doesn’t need another reason to feel irrationally guilty because she was too selfish to produce a sibling for her kid. (She must be an only child.)

P.S. If you secretly think I may be talking to one of your readers specifically, I’m not. I have heard this all through the years from everyone and their mother. (Actually, everyone but my mother, thanks mom.) If you have made these kinds of comments to me about me or to others, please consider that parents have enough to feel guilty about without adding something that isn’t even generally true. These comments often come from well intended places, but please think about what you are saying and how it might impact others.

P.P.S. If you still think this post is about you, have taken offense, and feel the need to express your complaints, please wait until I’m done fighting cancer and then you can kick my ass all you want. I will almost undoubtedly tell you that I didn’t write this post about you and if you hold these views about only children, I will likely stand firm in my position but I’ll love you no matter what.

I am mama grizzly, hear me roar!