Thursday, November 15, 2007

The only one

Silent One wrote an interesting post on second children that made me think about my own situation. I'm an only child and, as far as I can remember, had no problems growing up alone at all. It was a normal situation for me. Because both my parents worked full time, I had a variety of baby sitters and went to nursery school very early and as a result I was quite bubbly and sociable and never shy. I had my parents' undivided attention during evenings and weekends, and I was included whenever their adult friends visited. And of course I had my nursery, primary and secondary school friends too.

I was also very content to be on my own. I had an active imagination and could while away many hours alone in my own world. I loved reading as much as playing, and my mum says today that frequently she would not hear me for hours even if we were in the same house! In short, I think I was a very well-adjusted only child.

It was only as an adult, and no longer cushioned from life by my parents, that I began wondering what it would be like to have a sibling or two to share the ups and downs of life with. I know relationships with siblings are not guaranteed to be smooth nor are many of them that close, but the unspoken bond based on shared history and biology is something I sometimes wish I had for myself now.

M is really close to his siblings. He doesn't see them often, but when they get together their pleasure at seeing one another and their natural, unguarded interaction is a delight to witness.

And my father comes from a large family. Because all his siblings are in India, he sees them extremely infrequently. Years go by. But when they finally see one another, their genetic and social history binds them together in such a way that the fact that years have passed means nothing. Again, it's a joy to watch.

I am extremely close to my parents and so the need for a familial bond is satisfied. Moreover, I am married now and am creating my own family unit with M. But when my parents are no longer here? ... If I didn't have M in my life, if I was truly alone, I wonder how much "existential" loneliness I would feel - perhaps a fair bit...

All this, for some reason, doesn't make me want to necessarily have more than one child. But then again, who knows...


Bombay Beauty said...

This doesn't relate directly, but I saw Scenes from a Marriage by Bergman yesterday. What a terrible, beautiful, terrible, beautiful film. Though it doesn't involve children, the need for two people to find each other that despite and surmounting their own isolation was moving. I do have a sib, and don't know what I would do without him. Cheers, BB

S said...

It obviously depends on the parents and how they bring up a child, but I know more than one only child that has become an extremely selfish individual as an adult.

Not becuase they are bad people, but because they have never learned the concept of having to consider and accommodate the needs and wants of other people.

I know a man who refuses to see a couple he knows, who have a small baby, unless they travel to his house, which entails using public transport all the way across London. He simply will not do the travelling himself.

Another woman I know was incapable to talking about anything other than herself. She would talk for hours and hours. 4 of us shared an office with her, and we all had to listen to her choice of radio station. This seems like a trifling example to give, but when you are forced to listen to Heart FM for 10 hours a day every day it becomes quite a major issue!


On many other levels the people I have mentioned are very nice people, but experiencing those traits has out me off the idea of only having one child.

chakli said...

i think you can have such a bond with a cousin or even a friend. not all siblings are close (or happy to see each other).

Planethalder said...

BB - I've never seen that movie before. I'll add it to my list.

S - Oh dear! Knowing those types of people would put me off too! I also know some spoiled and self-centered people who happen to have siblings but I never put it down them having siblings :-)

One of my closest friends is also an only one and she's sociable and well-adjusted. So my own good
experience has not put me off potentially just having one child :-)

Chakli - Agreed. The bottom line is that we all have personal examples to prove or disprove any case imaginable.

Olivia said...

I'm also an only child, though for the first few years I was not happy about it. I begged for a sister. They tried, and failed.

But, it is very easy for me to spend hours alone. At the same time, I am lonely, forget that I am living with mother again and have a close network of friends, I need someone else in my life.

And because i am an only child, my cousins try to make up for it, so we are quite close. My younger cousin Alyssa even calls me sister because she has two brothers!

I try to encourage people to have more than one child. I think having siblings makes you grow with a type of strength that is more applicable to the real world than being an only child, where things always tend to go to plan because of fewer variables.