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Does only have to mean lonely?

So absolutely everyone we know is pregnant with their second or third child. Seriously, there are about five of our friends in various states of pregnancy right now. We’re not. There’s no medical reason for this, no particular envy or jealousy for those that are, but it has got me thinking. We don’t know if we want a second child. Gasp! I know. There seems to be a certain reaction when you say that you might be done to the (many) people asking. Surprise followed by justification (others justifying it to us, not the other way round). We’re not saying it will never happen but right now we’re just really enjoying the one child that we’ve got. And we feel very lucky to have him. He’s ridiculously cute and funny. See.

I’m an only child and I never really felt much need or want for a sibling and I don’t understand how those relationships work. The adult sibling relationships around me all seem very complicated. Loving, but complicated and I’m a pretty isolated little person and quite honestly grateful for not having a brother or sister. Am I like this because I never had one or is this just my personality? If so, having a sibling would have been difficult, crushing probably and I can honestly say that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) being part of a family of three.

Milo is currently convinced that there is a baby in my tummy (no, just cake sweet boy), and in his daddy’s tummy (also cake) and in his own (yep, cake). What does this mean though? Does he want a brother or sister? Is he just curious because all his friends seem to be getting them? I don’t know, but it got me thinking about children’s books and how I just don’t know of any that deal with this particular issue, or how one would. Do you? I’d love to hear about them if you do.

Naturally I turned to google and up came an interesting discussion on amazon from a lady looking for books for her little girl (an only child), that showed positive, strong, only children. These were the books that arose:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Eric by Shaun Tan (what a lovely and appropriate suggestion)


Snake’s Mistake (Maya’s Little Friends)
Something Else by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell
The Dragon’s Child by Jenny Nimmo
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Matilda by Roald Dahl (great because Matilda chooses to be an only child)
The Ottoline series by Chris Riddell

An interesting list with lots of feisty, strong girls. From my own reading as a child and adult I would add Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret – I know there’s a brother in this book, but he was sick for the most part and also just not as important as everything else. Meg Cabot’s wonderful Princess Diaries series – Mia gets a little brother by the end of the series but he’s pretty insignificant!

I did enjoy reading books about about sibling relationships as a child. My Naughty Little Sister books were a huge favourite of mine. I did not like that little sister and would not have liked having her in my life!

The Enchanted Woods and Faraway Tree tales, I always thought that being one of three children would be better than being a one of two and oddly (pre-Milo) I thought I would possibly have three children if I didn’t just stick to the one. And I always thought a little brother sounded better than a little sister.

And later with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Three is a bit of a magical number in children’s literature.

It’s a tricky thing though, what with all the books out there for children who are about to become older brothers or sisters, that there are none for those who aren’t. I don’t know how that book would be written either. I did read an article recently that I can’t find now that said that only children have a stability and confidence that children with siblings don’t always have. I don’t know how you can make those associations when every child born is so terribly different in personality, but it makes me hopeful that Milo won’t grow up to have those irritating stigmas that can be associated with being an only, lonely child and if he did, he wouldn’t care about it.

Milo will of course have a lot of friends – he’s very sociable and loves other kids and babies. He’ll also have books and as dorky and sad as it might be to say, but they served as much as family and friends to me growing up as “real” people did. Maybe why I never felt like an odd only child was because I always had the brothers and sisters in books and all the imagination in the world that I needed. The real thing never seemed that necessary.

To be sure that Milo’s okay though, he’ll have on his shelf the biggest list of books with feisty heros and heroines I can find (Artemis Fowl, Alex Rider, Harry Potter, and Jacqueline Wilson’s books of which there are plenty of only children) with not a sibling rescue in sight! How could he ever be lonely with all of these wonderful stories to keep him company?!

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve got an only and she loves being an only. When I see the other moms having to corral their kids in the waiting room at dance I don’t feel envious at all.

    March 29, 2011
    • natashaworswick #

      Thanks for stopping by Sara. I’m glad that your little girl likes being an only – I always did and I know what you mean about watching other people having to corral their kids. To be honest it’s sometimes a struggle enough to cope with just one! But I do also envy a little the idea of having a “brood” around me when I’m older with lots of kids coming to visit us elderly parents at Christmas (if they wanted to of course!).

      March 29, 2011
  2. Ooooh, that’s a tricky one and a real personal thing, but there is no right or wrong, surely?

    I never wanted my son to be an only child; depsite not particularly getting on with my sister (and same for my husband with his brother – one can feel lonely even with a sibling!), I did not want him to be alone. I was pregnant again before he had turned 2 (there are big age gaps between both my husband and me and our siblings so I wanted to avoid that). They fight – a lot – but they love each other so much too. But that is me, and that is my family. Why would something that is right for me be right for you or anybody else? You need to do what is right for you, and who cares what others think? :0)

    I am trying to think of other books with only children … Rita & Whatsit? She is a girl of course, and she has a dog, but she is feisty!
    Sempé’s Nicholas series will be perfect because he is an only child, a boy and has a lot of friends (of course he gets up to a lot of mischief but that’s by the by :0)). Will think some more!

    March 29, 2011
    • natashaworswick #

      Definitely no right or wrong at all. I don’t ever see how there can be when people are involved! And a person can definitely feel lonely with a sibling, I know that my mum does, just like you can feel lonely in a crowd of people. I really don’t like the term “lonely only child” because it’s something that I grew up with marking me out from other people when I didn’t feel it myself. It was confusing to me and at times, hurtful. But I do find it strange though that other people can have the opinion that their idea of what a family should be is the right way. The age-gap thing is a complicated issue to. If we were to have a second child there would now, obviously, be a fairly big gap… but I know siblings with big gaps, small gaps who all seem to have different issues with each other – I can’t ever imagine that there is a right one, just the one that’s right for your family and then I guess you just hope that the kids get along and love each other (and all siblings fight a lot I’m sure!). If we change our minds, I do think I will be wishing that I’d got all the nappies and sleepless nights done a lot earlier though! And I do remember as a child, wishing that there was another person there when we played board games. Always more fun with four!

      Will be looking into your suggestions – the Nicholas series sounds great, I like mischief making boy characters. Was a big fan of Just William as a child!

      March 29, 2011
  3. What a thoughtful post. We are doing the same thing, but are probably even more set on having one child. Cassy is wonderful, and we enjoy having so much time to spend with her, give her attention, and the flexibility it gives for international travel. I do worry sometimes, mostly because of this strange pressure you mention. My dad’s wife gave me a book, Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for Single-Child Families. I’ve only started it, but found myself quickly relieved to see the positives behind having one child. I’ve got one full sibling and two half siblings, love them all, but spent most of my growing up fighting with my brother. And I’m not sure that helped me to become a happier/better person.

    And to your question about books – what about The Phantom Tollbooth? Can’t forget your lovely son’s namesake (or at least it would have been my son’s namesake if we had had one). Also, what about Where the Wild Things Are. I think you mean books that more overtly talk about being an only child, is that right? Otherwise, I’m sure there must be loads of books which just happen to focus on one child without making a big point about it.

    Anyways, thanks for voicing your thoughts on this topic which one that constantly lurks. Cassy’s preschool is full of parents with two, three and even four children! I do sometimes feel inadequate, but then happy again to think of the quality time I, we, get with our very wonderful daughter.

    March 30, 2011
    • natashaworswick #

      I was hoping you’d stop by and comment! Interested to hear your thoughts 😉

      The Phantom Tollbooth – of course! Silly me – should have included that. Where the Wild Things Are is being read constantly in this house at the moment. It feels so appropriate for the feelings and emotions of a 2 year old and I really think that I’ve engaged with it on another level since Milo has started growing and needing his independence so much more (and is telling us, constantly). I might take a look at the book you’ve just started reading, it sounds interesting and there really are so many positives that I feel I should be focussing more on at the moment. I can’t imagine how I would divide my attention, my time, my energy between two, let alone three or four though I do see the definite positives for having a second child and Milo’s obsessed with babies at the moment (the reality may be very different!). It’s such a hard decision and I haven’t even touched on the whole financial side of it either. They are not cheap these kids!

      March 30, 2011
  4. What an interesting post. Milo is seriously cute! Well I have a ten year old and a one year old as you know, so Maisie was very much an only child for 9 years. She has dealt with having Bertie extremely well. The nine year age-gap almost seems like we have two ‘only children’! If you get me?! They’re both so different and at such different stages. I always said to Dan that we would have another after Bertie, as I wanted a smaller age gap, so that Bertie and his younger sibling could play together. Now however, I’m not sure I do want another child. We’ve been thinking we should just focus on the two we have, as it’s hard enough as it is! I’m not saying never either, but I think the nine year gap works better than I expected it to. (Saying this, I saw several small babies at the weekend, and did feel ever so slightly broody)! Haha. Bertie is such hard work though! Also, financially I keep thinking, if we have another one, then we don’t need to buy anything new…but it’s not just the baby bit…they get so expensive as they get older, with music lessons, various clubs, school trips…it’s endless! I guess we should all do what feels right. At least you know you make great babies! 🙂

    March 30, 2011
    • natashaworswick #

      Thanks – we think he is cute! I think at Maisie’s age I’d have probably really liked the idea of a baby brother and I like to think I would have adapted well to it. It’s a large enough age-gap that you can really, really include the older child in the pregnancy and the experience and they can enjoy the baby side of things and probably learn a lot too. I do vaguely recall trying to persuade my parents to adopt at some point just because I wanted a Just William type character in my life. They got me a budgie though and I’m pretty sure that did the trick. Aaah Skippy. My dad left the front door open and off she flew. Anyway… the age-gap question, however big or small, is one of those things that might work out or might not I reckon. Both my parents have big age-gaps between their brother (my mum) and sister (my dad) and you couldn’t get two more different relationships. My dad and his sister get on really well now, though didn’t know each other that well growing up because of the gap (as you get older it makes less difference I think) and my mum and brother – well, it’s by far the most complicated relationship I’ve ever seen!

      I’m not saying never either. I have a feeling the big test will come when all these lovely pregnant people I know have their beautiful babies and I’m surrounded by tiny faces, fingers and toes. They are the hardest work though ever… Milo was a nightmare sleeper for such a long time (he’s asleep right now but just shouted out “no, don’t stand there?!” for some reason) and I don’t cope with sleepless nights well and I worry that I will become a grumpy mum and snap at him constantly if we have a second 😦 And then there’s work. It’s taken me almost two years to recover my business from the Milo impact and we need my income! Oh boy! We do make great babies though and your Bertie is absolutely gorgeous and looking at your lovely pics of him does make me wonder…

      March 30, 2011
  5. cupcakes4mee #

    I’m so glad I found your blog. I feel like I am the one who wrote it, I am an only and have an only and I struggle at times from peoples comments when they ask if I’m going to have another child. Apparently in their eyes it is my motherly duty to provide my child with a permanent playmate, in all reality I feel I work harder and spend more time with my child than my counterparts with their 3 kids. It is not too common, if not a rarity to find anyone with an only. It was refreshing to read this, thank you.

    June 13, 2011

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