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what have onlies told you about being an only?

(23 Posts)
scottishmummyofone Tue 18-Aug-09 11:09:00

do you know any older onlies and what are the pros and cons that they have told you or you have observed about them being an only?

I hope this makes sense, I was just thinking about all the onlies I know (ranging from one year old up to 40!) and how it seems to have affected them.

age 40: my cousin. Her parents didn't have much money so she was an only. She has loads of cousins so i don't think she was lonely. She went on to have 3 kids of her own. Eldest 2 are 5 years apart and 3rd was an accident. She developed severe PND after no 3 and really struggled. As her mum was caring for her gran (plus we no longer talk to some cousins) she didn't get much support with the PND. So I guess for her being an only meant lack of support, but having 3 kids of her own was diffcult.

age 18: a girl mum childmiinded - very very pretty, popular (especially with boys lol), got great grades at school. no problems as far as I can see. going to uni

age 16: another kid mum childminded - popular but quite spoilt and has an attitude. Does well at school. acts older than her age - older boyfriend, provocative pictures on bebo...will probably go to uni. parents very successful. has 2 cousins and spents lots of time with them.

age 8: another mindee! very quiet shy girl but goes to lots of classes such as dancing and swimming. my niece's friend also.

age 7: my neice. popular. lots of clubs. but again acts older than she is - pierced ears (wants a pierced belly button shock), mobile phone, stays out playing til 10...

age 2: confident little girl (neighbour's child) but her gran keeps hassling her mum (and me, cos she lives in the street too) to have another. lots and lots of toys.

age 18 months: my dd, who is going through a demanding stage and making me worried she is becoming spoilt

Just wanted to see what the rest of you have noticed about onlies you know?

scottishmummyofone Tue 18-Aug-09 11:13:49

just read that back and hope no one thinks I was saying only onlies get good grades etc...

Pinkjenny Tue 18-Aug-09 11:21:23

I am an only.

Learn to enjoy own company
Self sufficient
Confident and outgoing
Very loyal friend (my friends are also my family)

I was always envious of those with siblings
Relationship with parents can be a bit intense
Struggled with dd at first as felt a bit suffocated by the relentless nature of it
Possibly slightly spoiled and can be a bit self absorbed.

I'll keep on thinking. I would like to think I am fairly well balanced, though. <deluded>

Pinkjenny Tue 18-Aug-09 11:23:27

I also think the issues associated with being an only are different depending on your age, as you have observed. I wish I had siblings now my parents are getting older, and I have dd, and it would be nice to share that with someone who is a blood relation, iyswim.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Tue 18-Aug-09 11:34:59

Well, just a selection of some of the onlies I know:

50-something: My cousin. Is quite emphatic that she enjoyed being an only child and never wanted siblings. Now happy and successful and has none of the hang-ups that the doomsayers expect all onlies to have.

30-something: My friend, married to another only child. Both are delightful people and, again, fail to live up to the 'only' stereotype.

DD and several of her friends: Too diverse in their personalities and interests to classify. Doing well at school and with a wide circle of friends. DD does lots of after-school activities, the others less so.

The only person I can think of who does display some of the traits people ascribe to only children - some difficulty in maintaining relationships and expecting everything to happen on their terms - is not an only child but had a sibling who died in childhood. Parents became (understandably) very protective and indulgent and (perhaps) some of that legacy lives on.

I think personality is far too complex to be determined only by family size. In the first place, I think one's "family" comprises many more people than parent(s) + child(ren) - I have several friends who I regard as family, for a start. And family dynamics and relationships are more of an influence than family size, as far as I can see.

DontCallMeBaby Tue 18-Aug-09 12:19:51

I know one adult (30-something only) who is perfectly described by MadBad's "some difficulty in maintaining relationships and expecting everything to happen on their terms". I was told by a mutual friend after she decided her marriage was over (after a year) that she was notorious for maintaining relationships for three years, then leaving. She was in deep with this one, with the marriage and house, but appeared to be bailed out by her parents in effect (cue much ranting from me about how when DD is grown up she'd better not expect that sort of thing).

She had long believed that she was a 'compromise' between her dad wanting one child and her mum three, but it turned out her dad had wanted none. I think this was a bit of an issue with my mum's family as well (mum is an only) as I suspect my grandfather didn't want children and my gran would have liked more. I've never asked, but I think my mum's problems stem more from her father being quite a difficult man, than from being an only. Plus she was actually brought up in the same house as her cousin, so in some ways was not an only child (cousin is also an only).

I have a friend who is 53 who, when I asked if he was an only child (he does a lot for his mum, and has never mentioned a sibling) said 'yes, can't you tell?' Erm, no, apart from the aforementioned doing stuff for mum, but I know plenty of people with siblings in that position, because the sibling is further away, or just a bit crap!

My daughter's main 'only child' trait is that she can find it hard to cope with everyday rough and tumble with other children, and will go to an adult for help. She takes other children's threats very seriously, and will cry and be bereft if someone says 'you can't be my friend unless you ...' rather than telling them to bog off. She is also quite shy, but I think that's far more about being MY child than an only child.

There are two other onlies in her class (that I know of), both boys, who I don't think you could tell apart from any other rambunctious little 5yo boy. There are a couple of quasi-onlies - girls with teenage siblings. Both are VERY self-reliant and confident little girls.

Of Pinkjenny's pros and cons, pros number 1,2 and 4 apply to me (many people think 3 does, but I just fake it very well), as do cons 3 and 4 - I am the eldest of two (by four years).

Scottishmummy do you think the two girls who you say act older than their age do that to an unusual degree? Cos it seems to me (old fart emoticon needed here) that an awful lot of girls do these days (creak, creak) regardless of family background.

ProfYaffle Tue 18-Aug-09 12:39:49

Don'tCallmeBaby - re your dd, I wouldn't assume that's because she's an only. I'm an only and have very similar tendancies but so does my Mum (who had 4 brothers) and my daugher (who has a sister) I think it's a personality type rather than sibling issue.

Being an only child was never an issue for me as a child, I had lots of cousins/kids in the street to play with.

It's only as I got older and had my children that problems have arisen. My parents seem to have huge issues in 'letting go' of me and allowing me to become an adult and a parent in my own right. I really wish I had siblings to share the burden with!

DontCallMeBaby Tue 18-Aug-09 13:09:36

ProfYaffle (nyah nyah nyah) you're probably right. If anything, it's a first child thing rather than an only child thing - I think the majority of second or subsequent children I know are more resilient than first children, even when the age gap is small and you'd think the eldest couldn't recall not having a sibling.

LittleMissTuffet Tue 18-Aug-09 19:34:15

"So I guess for her being an only meant lack of support"

For me being one of four has meant a lack of support from sibs.

And if you want to see spoilt kids, let me introduce you to my DH's 12 year old niece and her younger brother.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Tue 18-Aug-09 20:03:10

Exactly, LittleMissTuffet - spoiling is something which parents may or may not do, but has nothing to do with family size!

ProfYaffle Tue 18-Aug-09 20:53:06

LMT - My Mum could relate to that. She had 4 brother (one now passed away) she gets no support from her remaining brothers in looking after my Grandad, she may as well be an only in that respect.

scottishmummyofone Tue 18-Aug-09 21:17:19

this is interesting reading. I was wanting to know different ages experiences. It seems onlies 'suffer' or 'benefit' in different ways...

as for the two kids I know who act older than they are, I'm not too worried about the 16 year old as I guess that's normal at that age. Meant to say her parents (dad in particular) are very strict with her.

I'm more worried about my niece. She's only seven hmm and wears t shirts with suggestive slogans as well and swears a lot in addition to what I've already said.

LittleMissTuffet Tue 18-Aug-09 21:44:51

Nothing to do with your niece being an only, more to do with the parenting.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Tue 18-Aug-09 21:56:46

Yes, I agree. Who, after all, buys the suggestive t-shirts or, if they were a gift, allows her to wear them? This seems to be about a lack of boundaries, not about siblings.

scottishmummyofone Wed 19-Aug-09 08:08:36

but I think her mother sees her as more of a 'friend' than a daughter

GooseyLoosey Wed 19-Aug-09 08:16:25

I am an only child and have never missed siblings as I have never had any to miss (if you see what I mean). I agree that there can be quite a large parental burden, my mother was devastated when I left home and their was no sibling to share some of that burden with, also my father needs fairly full on care but lives alone so he has had to move to live near me. On the up-side I have a fantastic and very close relationship with my mother now which works very well for us both.

I do like my own company and very good at being alone. When I was younger I found it difficult to know how to get on with other people but it has become easier as I have got older. That said, I have 2 children and ds seems to have exactly the same issues that I did so maybe its nothing to do with being an only child.

Apart from that, the only thing I have noticed is the number of people who express surprise when I say that there is only me. Firstly because they perceive it as unusual and secondly becuase they all have only child stereotypes (spolit, self absorbed etc) which they say I do not match.

DontCallMeBaby Wed 19-Aug-09 13:59:37

I suspect there's a bit more of a danger of thinking of yourself as your child's 'friend' (not a good thing, IMHO) if you only have one child. With two or more, the children will side together and remind you quite clearly that you are NOT friends. Probably most of a risk when the child is the same sex, especially mum and daughter (being 'friends' with your child seems to be more a mum thing than a dad thing), and particular if the mum is a single parent. But that's all just risk and likelihood of course, not a dead cert that this will be the case with an only, or not the case with a child with siblings! I bet there are lots of cases where the only girl with two or three brothers is in a slightly unhealthy 'friendship' with her mum.

My response to DD whining 'you're not my best friend' to me when a little younger was to growl 'no, I'm your MOTHER', so you can see where I stand on that!

GooseLoosey that's really interesting about not having a siblig to miss. My mum once asked what it was like to have a brother, and I couldn't tell her, it's just how things have been pretty much since I can remember. She doesn't know what she's missing, I don't know what I'm not missing (or what I'm missing by not being an only ...) Some people who've lost a sibling equate that feeling with how it must be to be an only child, and of course that's really quite different.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Wed 19-Aug-09 16:35:51

<<Looks pensive. Strokes chin.>>

That's vair interesting, DCMB.

My own pet theory is that the mummy and daughter being best friends thing is less likely when the daughter is the only child. Maybe I'm projecting too much from my own circumstances (I had my first and only child when I had pretty much reconciled myself to childlessness and after a lot of medical intervention) but I am super-aware that I am her mother and she is my child. My friend who adopted her child feels very much the same way. On the other hand, the only families we know where the children call their parents by their names, rather than mum or dad - which, rightly or wrongly I take as a sign of being 'friends' with your child(ren) - have two or more children.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 19-Aug-09 16:46:05

My DH is an only - he didn't see any problems with us having an only. He does sometimes wish he had more relatives who weren't ancient or dead.

My DD seems to be a friendly child who gets on with everyone else. She's currently off playing with her friends. I suppose I spend more time doing things with her than if she had sibs but thats not such a bad thing. She acts somewhat younger than her chronological age, although she seems to be somewhat ahead of it academically. (actually I think she acts like an old-fashioned rather than a modern 10 year old so thats not a negative)

DontCallMeBaby Wed 19-Aug-09 17:01:48

<<sits opposite MadBad in armchair, strokes chin>>

I find it hard to imagine thinking you're friends with your children when they're ganging up against you, but then I can't imagine all sorts of things (like thinking owning three dogs is a good idea, or being a dentist, or not speaking to your parents for three years then going on holiday with them ... I could go on).

Grimma, that sounds lovely - DD sometimes seems younger than her friends, but she's not really, it's just that she hasn't yet rejected her Peppa Pig backpack as 'uncool' and she isn't interested in High School Musical.

MadBadandDangerousToKnow Wed 19-Aug-09 19:10:29

<<Keels over at the mention of HSM. We are word-perfect on all three movies chez MadBad.

Wanders off, humming We're All In This Together>>

Takver Thu 20-Aug-09 09:39:31

grin as an only child with an only child I will confess to 'collecting' adult onlies who are clearly sensible, well balanced and nice.

flibertygibet Fri 18-Sep-09 19:28:42

A lovely 50 something only friend of mine told me (when I was telling him about being worried my son would be an only) that the one thing about being an only is that it's hard when you finally get out into the big bad world, you suddenly realise that not everything is about you and you are not the most important person in the room. That really made me think about how I raise my son and not to treat him too 'carefully' (iyswim)..i.e. try to let go of my fear that something might happen to him....

not sure if I'm making sense....a few glasses of wine on a friday night...

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