The Life of an Only Child

Abby is 16 years old and lives in Oakland, CA. She loves music, volleyball, and spending time with her friends.

Is there a distinction between being spoiled and being an only child? Of course, many children with siblings can be spoiled, but can an only child avoid what seems to be the inevitable conception that they are spoiled? I cannot even begin to express the amount of times that I have been criticized by someone who does not know me at all, just because they find out that I am an only child. Even some of my close friends judge me sometimes because I do not have any siblings. People often think that I do not know how to share, or even that I cannot take care of myself. It is truly upsetting for me, because it is not something that I can control. I never asked to be an only child, in fact, I would rather not have all the attention that it forces my parents to give me, but there’s nothing I can do about the fact that my parents did not want any other children.

Despite the traditional definition that being spoiled is merely being pampered, society has associated this pampering with some negative connotations. Yes, my parents have no other child to pay attention to, so where other parents may split the time that they have outside of their other responsibilities between multiple children, my parents must dedicate all of this attention to me because there’s nobody else to give it to, but why is this a bad thing? I don’t get more presents than my friends, or more advantages than them. In fact, when I turned sixteen and got my license I did not get my own car, though many of my friends who have multiple siblings did.

There is actually a very clear pattern, at least in my family, for each generation that I think is a result of childhood experiences. My father’s parents were both only children, but together they had three sons. My mother’s father was one of thirteen kids, and my mother’s mother had a half sister, and together they also chose to have three children. My parents (who, as I explained, each had two siblings) decided to only have one child. Every time that I have asked my parents why they did not want other children their response has been that they “didn’t think they would be good parents to multiple children.” This is based on seeing their parents raise multiple children, and proves that those experiences so long ago still have an effect on their current decisions.

In addition, I know that I hope to have two children in my lifetime. I cannot say that is actually what will happen, but I can say that the number two is based on what I know about parents and siblings now. I want more than one child because I don’t want him or her to have to deal with the impulsive disapproval so many peers will have, and I do not want to accidentally succumb to the stereotype and spoil my child or be too involved in his or her life. At the same time, I do not want more than two children because I have grown up with the attention that an only child often receives, and I don’t want my children to be deprived of any attention because there are too many for me to handle.

To conclude, being an only child is not a bad thing in itself, but it does have some repercussions.  The way society treats only children affects how those children live during their childhoods, and later raise a family of their own.

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2 Responses to “The Life of an Only Child”

  1. Sonia Dume
    October 14, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    This short article kind of surprised me because I have 3 siblings and my husband has 5 siblings and we have “an only child”. My parents divorced when I was 12 and I witnessed the ridicule of other children towards my siblings and I because we did not have the latest fashion in clothes, alot of money or lived in a fancy house. We made the decision to have one child so that we could give him/her everything that we wanted when we were children. Times are different now. My son got a car when he received his license, a BMW ! I had to drive my dad’s big station wagon! He plays sports, goes on trips, My parents did not have alot of money so I can count on one hand how many family trips we took. I never really saw the child’s point of view. Thanks


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